Quibi, led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman Raised $1B from the biggest in the entertainment industry in 2018, then they raised another $750M in March 2020.
Not many took notice outside of the entertainment and tech industry until recently. Quite quietly Quibi has the past years built a mobile first content production and streaming platform with extreme expectations and potentially huge pay-offs.
It’s a massive bet made by some of the biggest names in the industry like The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures, Warned Media and Alibaba Group to mention a few. Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman are by and large also some of the biggest names in these two industries respectively.
Back in 2018, this $1B bet was something quite new, though had a hint of magical leaps around it. And for most people in the video streaming industry it seemed quite ambitious and sort of opened everyone's eyes to that professional paid content, made for mobile actually will become a very big thing.
Not necessarily that Quibi, which stands for Quick Bites, would be the ultimate winner, but that the form factor of mobile, the creativity of mobile, and the mobile audience would for sure be the next big thing in the entertainment industry. As seen in the current era of multi-screen video services, the mobile video market will have multiple actors too. Though the key common denominator will not be digital video, it will be mobile video.
The now $1.8B bet that potentially could create and own tv for mobile didn't come off too optimistic even back then. Taking into account that the term mobile here was both covering the mobile audience and the mobile device.
That order is quite tall, and being true to their vision of being truly mobile they took on all the problems at once. From the techniques and strategies to write for mobile, how to shoot and produce for mobile, how to utilize the dynamic form factor of mobile, how to build a mobile first video app experience for mobile and how to moat their wanted position of this new mobile only tv experience.
In this interview we get a better feel for why Quibi exists:
Meg and Jeffrey are touching on most of the challenges they’re experiencing when building television for mobile as they call it. It basically comes down to that no one before has really produced truly mobile first video content, or even a mobile first streaming service.
There’s definitely many streaming services for mobile out there, and also to some extent some that’s targeting mobile, though the rulers of mobile video today are services from when the internet was desktop and fixed screens. As Quibi and the alikes start streaming hard this is bound to change quickly.
Some years ago, sparked initially by Snap’s distribution of vertical videos, and to some extent today, vertical vs. horizontal video is a thing. It’s been debated up and down and side to side for years now. And up until now, it’s pretty much been a hard separation where professionally produced content is horizontal, like a television, and user generated content represents close to all vertical content out there.
In the interview Meg and Jeffrey directly address vertical vs horizontal as an opportunity to utilize in their storytelling and production rather than a binary choice if to make this or that orientation content.
They explain how Quibi to length are investing in both sides, how to create content that can tell stories from more aspect ratios, and how to overcome the technical challenges of at all delivering seamless multi-aspect content, and at how to make it a stellar end-user experience with additional value to what was before in one fixed aspect.
Furthermore, it seems the vision for Quibi’s future does not stop here. Mobile simply has so much more to offer. Like actually interacting with the storyline - participating in the universe of these quick bites of mobile video stories by turning the screen to horizontal revealing the ability to affect the storyline and future events. Seamlessly, without leaving the mobile video playback experience.
The Quibi team, also outside of Jeffrey and Meg clearly has a good understanding of the mobile audience. They are preaching key values and opportunities of mobile. It’s even in their name, Quick Bites. Quibi. Exactly how mobile people are entertained on mobile. Quick sessions of highly engaging, creative participation based entertainment. Where they can quickly pick up and leave, come back for more, and find tons more if and when they want too. Where they can actively participate and creatively curate and create while consuming. With friends, the internet and the world.
Today Quibi was finally launched and here’s a look at how the vision has materialized so far.
Opening the listing in the app store reveals that Quibi put some money in design. It looks and feels mobile first.
One could say that the current stay-at-home-and-stream-video situation was well timed, though they’re topping it off with a full 90 days free period for everyone. No many competing on that price point today - really, there’s no ads either (Quibi is hiring to solve this btw).
Opening the app you’ll meet a page just for you - not much training on the recommendation engine so far, though we guess they might have access to some basic data on the Apple / AppStore profile. Anyways, as we see here, Quibi is very much mobile. Immediately embracing the default view of mobile - vertical.
There’s a good selection of stories within horror, comedy, thriller and even news already available. Every single episode, or bite of video is under 10 minutes. The news goes by in just one minute. Very mobile audience friendly!
From browsing the library there’s quite a lot of content available already, globally. Days, weeks of content - even though they are broken up to small pieces. And there’s more coming. The content is produced exclusively for Quibi, and as you’ll see by the major producers and actors in the industry.
Hitting any content card directly launches the show, and this is where we really start feeling the mobile first video approach.
First of all, they are definitely producing content for both aspects.
Secondly it seems very important to Quibi to empower the end-users to have control over the experience and have a say in how and what they pay attention to story elements.
In addition to being able to set your aspect of choice on all the scenes we can easily reach the timeline, skip buttons, tap the screen to pause and even skip the 10 seconds increments. Mostly what we have been accustomed to from desktop experiences ported to mobile from YouTube, Netflix and the alike.
Even though Quibi is using the old click to static play model, at least you have all the controls at hand in any viewing mode. And simple things like hold to pause, and while holding, being able to slide up to mute, continue and activate captions really feels good, and like a step in the right direction of mobile first.
Worth mentioning is also that everything just seems to work as intended. Aspect streams switch seamlessly, the player is very responsive (even though kinda old school with click for linear playback), captions and subtitles works well - and even though I’m located in Oslo, Norway startup time is pretty low and buffering acceptable as we suspect the Quibi CDN not glowing hot over here, yet.
There’s also been talk from Quibi about choosing your own storyline, something we’ve seen also Netflix dust off from the old DVD’s and apply to streaming video. So far I’ve not been able to find this directly in Quibi, though it really feels much more like I’m actually there in the stories, having my say in how they are presented and played out - based on what you care about.
We recommend you to check Quibi out - it’s pretty cool, the content seems to have pretty high production quality and there’s quite a bit of it. For sure it’s a glimpse into what we have ahead of us regarding mobile video and entertainment in general.
If you're interested in learning more about how to take mobile video even further than what Quibi, we know how to make the experience truly mobile. Get in touch with us!