Quibi plays with the mobile-only streaming platform in the middle of COVID-19

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The creators of the newly released subscription streaming platform Quibi struggled to sell even before the COVID-19 pandemic brought us into an uncertain financial period.

Placing bets on Millennials buying from another streaming service, particularly one built entirely on Hollywood-produced abridged content, seemed risky from the start for many industry observers. But as Monday’s launch date approaches, some wonder if Quibi’s ambitious $ 2.48 billion bid to shake up the industry could land with a thump as potential subscribers focus on biggest obstacles in their lives.

“The timing couldn’t be worse,” said Carmi Levy, a technology expert based in London, Ontario. looking at the streaming industry.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, most consumers simply do not have the bandwidth to consider taking something new. Really, all they are looking for is comfort food in the form of frenzied content on services they already know, that they love and are happy to pay for. ”

Even before the world sank into viral turmoil, Quibi’s success was anything but certain.

Two years ago, Disney’s former film chief Jeffrey Katzenberg gave the idea its name, presenting it as the alternative to a flock of streaming companies that mainly hunted the same carrot.

Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg presented Quibi at the Sundance Film Festival in January. (Daniel Boczarski / Getty Images for Quibi)

Quibi is designed to appeal to the changing habits of viewers (and their fleeting attention span) with a huge selection of punchy, celebrity-stacked entertainment available only via an app on mobile devices. The platform functions as a hub for original news programs, reality shows and scripted dramas, with each episode arriving in 10 minutes or less.

The “quick bites”, from which Quibi gets its name, are designed for viewers on the go, who could watch them during their morning commutes, lunch breaks or while running on the treadmill.

But that was before our daily routines were disrupted by physical remoteness, and a few weeks before Quibi’s North American debut. The service comes out of the door with 50 shows and movies told in “chapters”, costing $ 9.99 per month, or $ 6.99 with ads, in Canada after an extended 90-day free trial was introduced after the COVID-19 epidemic.

Levy, director of the consulting firm Info-Tech Research Group, said that Quibi’s biggest challenge before COVID-19 differs from similar free platforms, especially YouTube and TikTok. Now he predicts that Quibi will find it hard to create an identity as more and more Canadians turn to the latest news and word-of-mouth success stories like Netflix docuseries Tiger king, who joined the self-isolated few days after his release.

Celebrities and CTV produce content

Whether Chrissy’s Court, the humorous model of Chrissy Teigen on reality TV shows, a renovation show Murder House FlipOr a restart of The fugitive with Kiefer Sutherland, may establish a similar connection with homebound viewers remains to be seen.

In Canada, Quibi is working with Bell Media to soften its Daily Essentials block of topical content. CTV News will produce daily morning news segments, evening news broadcasts, and TSN will produce daily sport roundups with production values ​​comparable to those of television broadcasts.

“It’s not Snapchat, so they’re thoughtful and have context,” said Lis Travers, CEO of CTV News Channel, which oversees the partnership with Quibi.

“It moves fairly quickly, five to six minutes, but it’s designed that way. “

Other Hollywood creators are trying their luck on the new platform with program offerings.

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, right, joins founder Jeffrey Katzenberg on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January. A host of famous names are creating content for the new platform, including Will Smith, Steven Spielberg and Jennifer Lopez. (Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images)

Steven Spielberg wrote the next horror series Spielberg’s After dark, which is only available after sunset to create the right scary atmosphere. Jennifer Lopez product Many thanks where celebrities are involved in charity. And Toronto-born Will Arnett welcomes Blackout, a deep dive into moments of noteworthy pop culture, many of which focus on Canada in its first series of episodes.

The Quibi app also includes a unique turnstile function that allows viewers to choose between watching a program on a horizontal or vertical device screen.

Well funded for now

The company receives financial support from venture capitalists, Hollywood investors and technology companies that include the Alibaba group. In the first year, he plans to flood his platform with 8,500 episodes of around 175 new shows, a production target that could be affected if the COVID-19 crisis continues for many months.

Another risk that threatens Quibi’s future is whether its millennial target audience will be ready to shell out for another monthly subscription service as the country heads for what economists predict will be a painful recession.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” said Joe Adalian, who writes the Vulture Buffering streaming newsletter.

“But Quibi leaders say they are in there for the long haul. While they want to make a profit, they are well funded until the end of 2021. It may take them longer to reach the subscriber (number) they want, but it’s okay. They integrated it into their business model. ”

Adalian said he was not ready to predict whether Quibi would succeed or fail, but notes that other “daring and daring” streaming ideas that came before them were rejected by some and ultimately succeeded.

“Ten years ago, people thought that with Netflix (viewers) would not only pay for original shows, and yet the value of its subscribers kept increasing as they built an overwhelming mass of original content, “he said.

“If Quibi can prove it too, then maybe he can change the habits.” “

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