A new streaming platform, available only on smartphones, tests whether famous actors and slick productions can give YouTube a run for its money in 10 minutes or less. Quibi offers “quick bites” (get it?) of drama, comedy, news, reality TV, and documentaries in short episodes designed with endings to lure viewers back for another bite.
“During the day you have these in-between moments, 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, where you want to see something great,” business mogul and Quibi co-founder Meg Whitman, the former president and CEO of Hewlett Packard, said. She and co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former DreamWorks Animation CEO, promise 175 new shows this year. The first 25 were released last week.
The pre-release buildup touted appearances by Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, Christoph Waltz, and Sophie Turner. In the drama Most Dangerous Game, based on the short story by Richard Connell, star Liam Hemsworth agrees to be the prey in a bizarre human hunting game. It runs just over 2 hours, broken into 15 episodes, or “movie chapters.”
The docuseries I Promise spotlights at-risk kids who attend a school Lebron James started in Akron, Ohio. It promises to be upbeat and family-friendly, but many other Quibi shows are for mature audiences only.
The app’s release in the middle of a pandemic may be ill-timed. The intended on-the-go audience for this $1.75 billion mobile platform is now mostly homebound, choosing full-length programs from recliners. While sheltering in place, more than 56 percent of U.S. households are watching more programming today than before, spending at least two hours a day in front of the TV, a technology that Quibi doesn’t accommodate.
Cost is a consideration, too. After a free 90-day trial, subscriptions run $4.99 a month with ads or $7.99 without commercials. That’s a big ask considering all the current streaming choices, as well as the quick, free options like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and a barrage of breaking news updates. Besides, users can hit the pause button themselves 10 minutes into anything. —Sharon Dierberger