A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
Quibi unveiled. ALSO: Supermarket Sweep returns.
Always Be Watching is written each day by the Quibi-curious Dan Barrett
It’s a huge TV news day. And, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no bigger news story today than Quibi.
Remind me again - what the heck is Quibi?
Quibi is a streaming service set to launch soon that is all short-form videos designed for mobile devices. Quibi, which stands for ‘Quick Bites’ has a huge amount of money behind it. Its founders are Jeffrey Katzenberg (ex-Disney, ex-Dreamworks) and Meg Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, Antoine Fuqua, Peter Farrelly, Catherine Hardwicke, and Reese Witherspoon.
In short - its a video service you pay for that is kind of like YouTube, but has shows with huge name talent.
What’s the news today?
Quibi had a coming out event at CES today. We now know it will launch on April 6. It will launch on both iOS and Android. The price is US$5 with ads or US$8 without ads.
In addition to the big name talent, the real selling point for Quibi is a feature called Turnstyle. You can see it in action in the tweet below - it offers a seamless experience to switch your video between portrait to landscape with Quibi productions filmed to make use of both formats. That’s legit kind of cool.
In terms of content, this is what they are rolling out on a daily basis:
Can anyone explain how a movie broken up into chapters isn’t serialised TV?
All of this sounds alright… Doesn’t it?
Look, I’m interested in Quibi. If YouTube is the best that mobile video experiences can be, then that’s disappointing. There’s room for companies to come into this space in a significant way.
But, I do have some reservations.
At launch it doesn’t look like Quibi is launching outside of the US. That is going to severely limit the global footprint Quibi will be able to achieve. And as a subscription service that doesn’t necessarily need sales teams on the ground in every market, with content produced bespoke for the service, I don’t understand why it won’t be global.
I’m not convinced there is a huge appetite for people to pay for yet another mobile streaming service. Especially one that is restricted to mobile devices, but has content comparable to the production value of Netflix/Hulu. If making the choice - why not just choose Netflix or Hulu? After all… they cost the same amount.
I’ve never seen narrative short-form TV programming (ie with episodes less than 10 mins) that captures my attention. Within that timeframe a chapter needs to establish what is going on, introduces a dramatic element, and set up a pathway into the next episode - it’s all sizzle, no steak. Jeffrey Katzenberg has cited the very short chapters from The Da Vinci Code as an inspiration for Quibi. I don’t know if you have tried reading The Da Vinci Code, but each chapter is not very nourishing. It does encourage you to want to immediately plough into the next episode… but Quibi releases episodes daily… it’s not built as a binge-orientated platform.
The marketing around Quibi SUCKS. Just look at today. It launches with a Twitter account named WFT is Quibi (which is fine if you have a playful brand… but from what I can gather about the look and feel of Quibi it is supposed to be the HBO of streaming mobile video. It should have a classy veneer). And then there was its launch video which might have played fine in the room, but put it on the Internet and it simply doesn’t work. It takes way too long to get to the point of Quibi and when it got there, it didn’t have enough to say. It completely fails in terms of the mobile attention economy. I could excuse this if the main point of Quibi wasn’t engaging online video.
ABC is in talks with Kevin Fiege about producing a primetime broadcast Marvel TV show. Note: He’s the guy that makes the movies that everyone likes and wasn’t responsible for any of the tepidly received TV shows. Source: Deadline
Directors Cary Joji Fukunaga & Nicole Kassell are working on a Last of The MohicansTV series for HBO Max. Source: Deadline
Supermarket Sweep is returning to US television in a new version that will be hosted by Leslie Jones. That sounds fun. Source: Variety
Silvio Horta, the creator of Ugly Betty, Jake 2.0, and The Chronicle, died yesterday at the age of 45. Source: BBC
IAC/InterActive Corp has sold CollegeHumor. The sale will result in 100 employees being laid off. Source: Bloomberg
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