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Quibi: Blink and you might miss it

Quibi is the blockbuster streaming video service that you probably never heard of.

There is one big idea behind Quibi: that you want to watch small up-to–10 minute video shows on your phone.

Yeah, me neither.

And as it turns out, that’s most people’s reaction.

The weird name is a contraction of Quick Bites.

Like Netflix only shorter

Quibi’s founders hoped it would be to short form video what Netflix is to video. Early on in the project the founders suggested Quibi would become a verb, the way Google is sometimes used.

It exists as a phone app, the kind that you load and then start paying a monthly subscription. The official price in the US is on a par with the cost of Netflix. You can pay less and get ads served up with your video clips. I’m amazed anyone would pay US$5 for such a service with advertising. But… Americans.

There’s a gimmick or special feature: You can watch everything in portrait or landscape mode on your phone, the app moves seamlessly between the two.

Well the people behind Quibi think that will pull in the punters.

There are dramas, documentaries, talk shows even movies served up in small ten minute segments.

Wall-to-wall celebrities

One key is that almost everything features famous actors or other well known performers. It comes with high production values and wall-to-wall celebrities.

Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman started Quibi. Katzenberg is a film producer and was a founder of Dreamworks. Whitman was the former Hewlett-Packard CEO.

So far Quibi has spectacularly missed its targets. The goal was to get 7.5 million subscribers in the first year. At the moment it looks like it will get around 2 million at the end of its first year.

The 7.5 million target was fairly modest. Netflix has more than 180 million subscribers.

Now the US media is already writing Quibi’s obituary.

Quibi says it failed to meet targets because of the pandemic. But that’s odd because sales of other streaming video services have surged in that time.

Quibi crowded out

It is more likely that the quick bite format isn’t enough to grab audiences. Attention spans may be dropping, but it seems few people are willing to pay a Netflix-like price to fill in the odd spare moments of their lives with yet more video content.

There is an abundance of free, short-form video content. YouTube has more than you could ever watch. That doesn’t help Quibi.

The most likely way out of the dead end that Quibi has found itself in is for the service to switch to a more Netflix-style format. That means longer shows and putting the app on devices other than cellphones.

Although that is now a crowded space, there is still potential for a service with the right content.

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