At CES, the streaming service Quibi showed off its technology and some of its more than 175 new shows, which it hopes people will pay $4.99 a month to watch.
In case you haven’t noticed, however, Quibi has a lot of competition. Netflix. Disney+. YouTube. Snapchat. There are endless ways for people to gorge on video these days. So how will Quibi, meant to be watched on mobile devices, survive?
“It’s a different level of quality because we’re spending more money,” Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, who helmed both eBay and Hewlett-Packard, told Mashable on Tuesday.
A show on YouTube might cost “a couple hundred dollars a minute to up to $5,000 a minute” to produce, she said. “We make content for $100,000 a minute.”
That’s how the service has been able to recruit big names like Chrissy Teigen, Guillermo del Toro, Kevin Hart, and other Hollywood A-listers. There will be movies shared in “chapters,” reality shows, and news programs, including one from BBC News.
Quibi’s appeal to Hollywood stars isn’t hurt by the fact that it was founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, who started DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg — the writer of a Quibi horror series that’s only viewable at night.
Quibi under the “quick bites” premise
Quibi stands for “quick bites” and that’s exactly what viewers will get: episodes of 10 minutes or less.
The service will cost $4.99 a month with ads and $7.99 without them. Instead of the Netflix model of releasing an entire season at once or the classic TV tradition of a new episode every week, Quibi will dole out an episode every day until a season is over.
“We conceived this as something that people will come to every day, as opposed to a particular show on a particular day, once a week,” Katzenberg said.
If you don’t pay the extra $3, be prepared to sit through a 15-second unskippable ad before each episode.
While the service won’t be available until April 6, the company did show me a preview of Turnstyle, the technology it developed to seamlessly switch from landscape to portrait mode whenever the viewer feels like it.
To be clear, I didn’t see clips on a finished app, so I can’t say whether this is how Turnstyle will function in the wild. But the sample I saw was impressive — no lag as it went from portrait to landscape mode, with video taking up the entire screen in either orientation.
In some shows, like Wireless, about a college student stuck in the wilderness, going into portrait mode will show you the action on the main character’s smartphone screen. Other series will be more subtle. But going vertical doesn’t mean just cropping out stuff you’d see in landscape mode. Filmmakers actually create two edits of each show (one vertical, the other horizontal), so they can make artistic decisions on what, exactly, you should see in the frame in either mode.
It certainly looked better than video on the YouTube app. But spending a lot of money on content doesn’t guarantee users, who have access to plenty of free content on Snapchat and Instagram, and an army of streaming services asking for their money.