Quibi shows off new snack-size, mobile-first streaming service

At CES today, former HP CEO Meg Whitman and film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg unwrapped a brand new streaming service due to hit the market later this year, Quibi.

Since its initial teaser announcement in 2019, Quibi has been somewhat shrouded in secrecy. But now we have a glimpse of what the service hopes to achieve. It apparently wants to be a panacea for content creators and marketers struggling to target the coveted and increasingly hard-to-reach millennial consumer.

This year 9 out of the 10 winning Golden Globe television shows were produced by non-broadcast providers, highlighting the stunning transformation in media consumption that has reshaped today’s media landscape.

As the Globes played out, the marriage between Hollywood and Silicon Valley was also on display with Apple’s Tim Cook joining the cast of The Morning Show for the annual awards gala. With the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and now Apple investing billions to compete in the streaming wars, the union between Southern California’s creative community and Northern California’s tech innovators has never been stronger.

As Quibi prepares to enter a crowded streaming market, it does so with one key differentiator according to CEO Whitman. “We are creating something entirely new. The very first video platform built for mobile,” she said on stage at CES today. As if to hammer home the point with a nod towards other competitors, she added, “We are not shrinking TV content for a phone.”

Quibi, or “quick bites,” will deliver content tailored to what Whitman called the “on the go” audience. Videos are designed to be viewed in less than 10 minutes, with everything from episodic television shows, high impact movies, and news programs developed to capture the ever-shortening attention span of mobile video consumers.

The mobile first, millennial first focus of Quibi comes at a time when marketers are finding it increasingly difficult to reach and engage both cord cutters and the growing group of cord nevers – the 1 in 10 Americans who have never had a paid cable subscription. These audiences are increasingly turning away from traditional television viewing habits as they take control of when, where, and how they consume video. According to Katzenberg, 18-24-year-olds now consume 80 minutes of “on the go” video every day.  The vast majority of that is consumed on their mobile phone. Advertisers like Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Taco Bell, and T-Mobile have bought into Whitman’s pitch of a “premium brand-safe platform that targets millennials during their lean forward on-the-go moments” in a big way. In October, Quibi announced it had sold out of an entire year’s worth of ad inventory – worth $150 million – before producing a single show or signing up a single subscriber.

The tech behind Quibi is equally impressive and in many ways brings the “Tesla” model of electric car innovation to the streaming market. Rather than trying to fit old models of consumption into a new frame (the phone), Quibi has completely reengineered both the production process for video as well as the delivery process.

What underpins the technology approach is Quibi’s product Turnstyle, which lets users switch between content in portrait mode and landscape mode. To achieve this seamless experience that doesn’t arbitrarily crop out content, Quibi content creators must shoot every scene with two cameras, capturing the content for both vertical and horizontal viewing. The content is then digitally stitched together allowing for near flawless toggling back and forth. The new approach has also empowered creators with new abilities to bring audiences more deeply into the viewing experience. For example, the viewer can experience an entirely different perspective by switching the angle of the phone. The example provided during the CES demonstration was from a soon-to-be-released thriller that involved a conversation between the lead actress in her living room and a possible intruder on the video camera at her front door. By altering the angle of the phone, viewers can switch between watching the action through the Ring phone lens and watching the traditional shot of the actress in her living room. It is this kind of ground up innovation that Quibi is counting on as it prepares to enter the market in April and compete against the biggest content and tech companies in the world.

Quibi plans to deliver an impressive catalog of content in year one, with a who’s who of actors, directors, and influencers filling out a three-tiered programming schedule the company refers to as movies in chapter, episodic television, and daily essentials.

According to Katzenberg, Quibi will have 175 shows and 8,500 total episodes available in year one. These will include movies in chapters with the likes of Bill Murray, and a new take on The Fugitive, which will star Keifer Sutherland in 10-minute episodes. They will launch 35 movies in chapters in 2020. To fulfill Katzenberg’s promise of “something for everyone and something for every moment,” the streaming platform will develop 120 episodic and unscripted shows in the year ahead covering everything from entertainment to cooking and fashion, including a new version of MTV’s Punkd.

The final category of content will be Quibi’s daily essentials. Through exclusive partnerships with NBC News to develop multiple daily news shows geared towards millennials and partnerships with gaming platforms, weather, sports, and entertainment outlets, daily essentials will play a significant role in filling the content pipeline for Quibi. Quibi’s focus on constant content refreshes in quick bites for millennials to snack on while on the go will play out with three new hours of premium content developed for the platform every single day.

Whitman announced the company had inked a launch partnership deal with T-Mobile that will help scale awareness with the carrier’s 60 million subscribers who consume enormous amounts of video. T-Mobile’s President and COO joined Whitman on stage and shared that more than half of all bandwidth usage on T-Mobile is consumed by video.

Dallas Lawrence is an advisor to Channel Factory and the former chief communications and brand officer for OpenX.

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