Are Bite-Sized Shows the New Frontier of Streaming Content?
It’s hard to forget back in 2012 when David Lynch said, “If you play a movie on a phone you will never, in a trillion years, experience the film. You will think you have experienced it, but you will be cheated.” 8-years later, I still agree with that notion.
The phone has always been considered the villain at the movies. Just try to enter a theater and you’ll see how quickly you’ll be told to shut it down.
With all due respect to Lynch, though, times have changed. Today, a newly born California startup called Quibi seems to be the talk of the town in Hollywood. Its name is short for “quick bites” and this app, with over a billion dollars in investments, aims to be the Netflix of a new market niche where original content is meant to be exclusively watched on a smartphone.
…this app, with over a billion dollars in investments, aims to be the Netflix of a new market niche…
Despite its massive initial investment, the Los Angeles based company is already facing some heavy allegations that have sparked off only one month before its launch on April 6th. In fact, Eko, another tech and media company, has recently filed a lawsuit alleging that Quibi stole their technology after some Eko execs demoed it to Quibi employees while they were still working at Snapchat, and even later on when Quibi showed interest in investing in the company.
Every Billion There Must Be A Death
The brainchild behind Quibi is Jeffrey Katzenberg, a Hollywood producer, author of Disney’s rebirth in the ‘90s, and co-founder of DreamWorks Animations (Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda). According to Katzenberg, short, quality, and paid entertainment on mobile devices is the future of streaming. Judging by his resume, it cannot be implied that this is just the humble opinion of an ordinary man.
To give you an idea of the names that are backing Katzenberg in the era of streaming wars, it is worth mentioning that his long-time friend and DreamWorks co-founder, Steven Spielberg, is already onboard to direct a project entitled After Dark – a horror thriller series whose episode will be aired only after sunset.
As for Eko, this Israeli company creates interactive videos that work with a turnstile technology which allows viewers to seamlessly switch between portrait and landscape video orientations. Its CEO, Yoni Bloch, claimed that he had a sit-down with Jeffrey Katzenberg about a possible investment in such technology before Katzenberg had even founded Quibi.
All This Fuss… Is It Even Worth It?
Whether we are in front of the future of entertainment itself or its just another ploy to profit on an increasing demand of content that wants to be consumed in different formats, I don’t see a duel that’s worth our attention here and there really isn’t a true streaming war. As I said in the beginning, we’re talking about a massive investment, yes, but it’s still related to a market niche.
What got me hooked into this conundrum is the amount of money and talent involved in developing something that cannot, by any means, surpass what a darkened theater or a 40-inch television can offer in terms of experience. In other words, Quibi and Eko would still be the benchwarmers amidst the other streaming platforms.
…Netflix has tried to make series shorter, but they do not seem to have had much success.
Despite the potential outcome of their dispute, what I see here is a non-viable concept, especially in relation to its massive investment. As evident in the recent successful releases on Netflix and the current streaming wars on content acquisition, people are still fond of the traditional half-hour comedy shows and one-hour drama series. In the past, Netflix has tried to make series shorter, but they do not seem to have had much success.
Finally, there’s another big issue: the money. $5 a month is not so much, I’ll give you that, but what if you have to add this cost to other two, three, or four similar subscriptions? And let’s keep this in mind, Quibi will be the backup platform, not the first choice. Why? Well, where do we put free short form video content such as YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram stories that keep us company in bed, on the subway, or in a waiting room?