Quibi, the much-hyped smartphone device that aims to deliver video entertainment “fast bites,” is finally here.
Thanks to the involvement of founder Jeffrey Katzenberg (who previously co-founded DreamWorks Animation) and CEO Meg Whitman (formerly CEO of eBay and Hewlett Packard Enterprise), the company has been in the news for more than two years.
Plus, to finance a star-studded content slate from filmmakers including Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Lena Waithe and Catherine Hardwick, a whopping $1.75 billion has been raised.
Quibi opens today with almost 50 presentations. The initial lineup includes “Chrissy’s Trial” (in which Chrissy Teigen presides over the trial of small claims), “Form of Pasta” (a food and travel show featuring chef Evan Funke), “Most Dangerous Game” (a dystopian thriller featuring Liam Hemsworth) and “Survive” (a scripted plane crash drama featuring Sophie Turner). Both episodes have a length of less than 10 minutes and can be viewed in either portrait or landscape mode.
Quibi says it will produce more than 25 new episodes every day, including segments of what the organization calls Daily Essentials — news and entertainment shows such as Entertainment Weekly’s “Last Night’s Late Night” and ESPN’s “The Replay.”
The plan would cost without advertisements $4.99 or $7.99 a month. Quibi also provides a free 90-day trial if you sign up before April ends.
Last week, CTO Rob Post admitted in a meeting with reporters that it was a long, costly path to get going. Yet, despite the heavy investment in content, he said, “There was no space for [Chief Product Officer Tom Conrad] and I to produce a minimally viable product.” Instead, they needed to create something that was fully polished.
While Quibi has been building up to that for months, with a big presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show, Super Bowl advertising and more, the world has changed, with a global pandemic making it a strange time to launch any product.
People are certainly looking for an escape right now, and are running. Yet the app is designed for watching when you’re on the go, whether it’s walking around, standing in line, or sitting in a car’s backseat — all moments that happen far less often when vast swaths of the populace are encouraged to take cover and keep a social distance away.
Still, Post argued that the kind of entertainment Quibi is providing is required.
And, of course, those constraints have created challenges for Quibi’s launch and development of content.
“That means all sorts of things,” said Conrad. “Our Daily Needs, both of which were scheduled to be made in New York and L.A. studios. In most cases, people’s homes are fired every day … Everybody from the production team to post-production houses, to engineering and marketing organizations, are trying to adjust to this moment.
The expense of production is clear — most of the shows I’ve watched look far more expensive than what you’ll find on YouTube. However, what’s lacking so far is some clear sense of the artistic breakthrough Whitman was hinting at. Quibi then offers well-manufactured, mildly exciting shows that can be enjoyed when you have a few minutes to spare. They are all good, but never more.