Watching films, series and other programmes on your mobile phone alone, in increments of ten minutes maximum, in transport or in a queue: the Quibi platform wants to adapt streaming to today’s “nomadic” uses, far from any television or computer screen. The project led by Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney boss (1984-1994) and founder of Dreamworks studios, is due to be launched in April 2020. It has already seduced the Hollywood studios, which have put a billion dollars on the table.
Many prestigious stars, such as Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro or Jennifer Lopez, have followed and are working on short programmes (films and series but also talk shows, news, etc.) specifically designed for a telephone screen, which can be held either vertically or horizontally. “We are creating a new mobile viewing platform that can reach a difficult audience: our target is the ‘millenials'”, the famous ‘Y generation’, i.e. those born between 1980 and 2000, explained Meg Whitman, Quibi’s CEO, at a conference organised in California by the Wall Street Journal.
To seduce them, Quibi, short for “Quick bites”, will offer “videos of very high quality, Hollywood quality, with short formats entirely optimised for mobile phones”that cannot be watched on any other medium, says Meg Whitman. It’s not just about how the images are shot, compressed and played back, but also the form in which the videos themselves will be presented, insists the former boss of eBay and Hewlett-Packard.
“We tell the stories cut into chapters. One of our main offerings will be films. One-and-a-half or two-hour films, told in ten-minute chapters “, each with its own dynamic, “a beginning and an end “. “The best analogy is The Da Vinci Code. Each chapter of the book is five pages long because Dan Brown thought people didn’t want to read 40 minutes at a time.
For Meg Whitman, this short format is the key to capturing the attention of future subscribers in their daily activities, mainly from Monday to Friday, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the evening. As an exception to the rule, Steven Spielberg has asked that the horror series he is developing for Quibi should only be seen at nightfall, in order to create the right atmosphere…
The service, which will initially be available only in the United States and Canada, will have a cost comparable to the Disney+ platform: $7.99 per month without advertising, $4.99 with advertising. Advertising space for the first 12 months of operation has already been sold for $150 million, but will customers be there?
““Frankly, I think we’ve already had proof with YouTube”and its pay channelthat this business model doesn’t work”, Tom Nunan, producer and professor at UCLA University’s School of Drama, Film and Television, told AFP. “For me, of all the new streaming services that are being launched, Quibi is the riskiest because it is exclusively dedicated to short format when there is no evidence that people want to subscribe to this kind of content”, he adds.
“I think Quibi can be viable. It fits in with the lifestyle of today’s young people, little pieces that they can look at on the go and then come back to”, says Gene Del Vecchio, a specialist in marketing and consumer behaviour.
Meg Whitman highlights Quibi’s strength in attracting innovative projects: like its competitors, “Quibi pays production costs plus 20%. We retain the rights to short formats for seven years, and at the end of those seven years, the creators take back their intellectual property”. “They will be able to edit the film in another format and sell it to another medium, why not another streaming service. We’re okay with that because we don’t really think we’re competitors”for traditional streaming services, she says.