Commentary

Quibi Launched Its Pursuit Of Consumers' Short Attention Spans

Quibi, the mobile-only streaming service with very brief snippets of content, makes its debut today to mixed reviews in uncertain times. The startup, whose name is a shortened version of “Quick Bites,” is led by former Walt Disney Studios and Dreamworks Animation honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay and HP CEO Meg Whitman.

Quibi offers “movies, reality shows and news programs made for the smartphone, with no installment clocking in at more than 10 minutes. The offerings fall into three main categories: movies that will be released in chapters; documentaries and unscripted reality shows; and quick-hit news and sports reports from NBC, BBC, ESPN and others. Fifty shows will be available Monday,” writes Nicole Sperling for The New York Times.

“Quibi has put several mega-stars out front, making them tough to miss. Within seconds of scrolling through the app, we encountered a satirical show starring Chrissy Teigen, a documentary starring LeBron James, and a revamped version of MTV's 2000s hit ‘Punk’d’ starring Chance the Rapper,” writes  Sara Fischer for Axios.

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But “is a pandemic the right time for Quibi?” asks  USA Today’s Jefferson Graham.

“We thought a lot about this: Can we launch now?” Whitman tells him. “People are at home, running their businesses, home-schooling their kids, but there's always in-between time,” she adds. “Our original-use case was in-between moments. Except now, instead of waiting for the class to start, it's waiting for the next Zoom call.”

“The one change was a new offering, for the time: a 90-day free trial. From there, the monthly subscription is $4.99 with ads, or $7.99 ad-free. You can see Quibi only on your phone, not on TVs via Roku, Amazon Prime or any other streaming players,” Graham reports.

Also T-Mobile last week officially announced an exclusive partnership with Quibi. 

“The service will be made available for free for a year to T-Mobile customers on its unlimited wireless family plans…. Quibi had confirmed last October that a deal with T-Mobile was in place, in statements made to various news outlets. But the details of the deal itself were not yet announced nor confirmed by T-Mobile at that time,”  Sarah Perez reports  for TechCrunch. “

Indeed, “the company has also had trouble getting the word out. Although Quibi spent millions on commercials that ran during the Super Bowl and the Oscars, 68% of participants in a Morning Consult/Hollywood Reporter poll last month said they were not familiar with the brand,” the NYT’s Sperling writes.

To that point, “USA Today’s Ad Meter showed Quibi’s ‘Bank Heist’ to be the fourth-worst-rated out of the [Super Bowl’s] total 62 ads, with a rating of 4.4,” Marketing Daily’s Tanya Gazdik reported

“Part of the reason awareness is so low is they are building a new name,” eMarketer video analyst Ross Benes tells Sperling. “Quibi takes time to explain. It’s not super clear that this will cost you $5 a month and you’ll get a lot of short videos.”

“We’ll have a separate review for Quibi’s launch shows, but I’m focusing more on the app itself. To start, let me reiterate that your phone is the only way to experience Quibi. There’s no TV app, which has already stood out as a clear deal-breaker for some people I’ve talked to -- especially right now when everyone is at home for so much of the day. You can’t access the service on the web, and there’s not even a tablet-optimized version of the app. No Chromecast. No AirPlay. It’s for your phone, nothing else,” Chris Welch writes  for The Verge.

Then he offers a coup de faint praise for what it does do.

“At launch, Quibi has delivered an app that is, in a word, fine. It works reliably, even if the user experience comes off as a little basic compared to Netflix and other streaming giants.”

As far as the content itself, here’s Glen Weldon’s verdict  on NPR’s “Morning Edition”: “I checked out the four ‘Movies in Chapters’ Quibi launched with, and while I can't Quibible (heh) with their production quality, I didn't love the experience of following a story in such a herky-jerky fashion. The issue, for me, was that the episodes didn't feel like satisfying, self-contained chapters -- it just felt like I was watching a movie and kept getting interrupted.”

Weldon was fonder, however, of several shows in the Unscripted/Documentary category.

“The bottom line: Like many new upstarts, Quibi's goal more recently has had to shift to providing an essential service during the coronavirus. This has helped to motivate the company to meet its launch date, despite the challenging circumstances,” writes Axios’ Perez.

“What we do is insignificant compared to true heroes,” one executive tells her. “But we do hope that putting something entertaining into the world in this moment provides inspiration.”

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