It´s a mobile-first world: Quibi, the video changemaker.
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Quibi stands for “quick bites”. It is a subscription-based mobile video app to be launched in April 2020 in the United States and later worldwide. Quibi is the creation of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former chairman of Walt Disney, and Meg Whitman, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard.
It has been announced longer than one year ago and discussed already at the 2019 SWSX. In that period, the founders collected more than 1,4 Billion USD 💰 funds and signed hundreds of commissioning agreements 🤝 with renowned content creators from cinema and TV (the one name you might have heard: Steven Spielberg).
The mobile-only service will launch with two pricing tiers: an ad-supported plan for 5 USD per month and an ad-free option for 8 USD per month.
It will show 100% commissioned content, conceived and produced for the mobile platform, with all videos with a maximum ten minute in length. Quibi is betting on the power of premium, highly produced mobile-first programming of filling a space of interest that is currently the domain of youtube, Instagram stories and Tik-Tok. They are the competitors, not Netflix and the other SVOD services.
QUIBI IS INVENTING A NEW VIDEO FORMAT: THEY CALL IT THE “TURNSTYLE”.
Turnstyle is a way to adapt the video ratio to how viewers are handling the phone in their hands: horizontal or vertical. Turnstyle allows its videos to instantly flip between vertical portrait framing and horizontal landscape framing as the phone moves. Instantly means no latency, no breaks, no rebuffering — a seamless, dynamic viewing experience.
Turnstyle is created by stitching together two videos of the same scene together, one captured in a landscape lens (horizontally) and one captured in a portrait lens (vertically). Video creators will in most cases shoot one very wide piece of footage at 8K resolution that they could then crop in the editing room to create the horizontal or vertical framing. Then, they can crop the same video in two ways — one in vertical and one in horizontal — so that they can be stitched together to create the Turnstyle.
A single audio track is added, and the whole thing is encoded at once and delivered to the phone. Quibi’s users can experience the same video from a slightly different perspective: when holding the phone vertically, the viewing experience is intimate, more focused on the character and with less of the surrounding environment. When holding the phone horizontally, you get a more traditional landscape mode.
In other cases, directors may choose to do two separate shoots, which has already unleashed some outside-the-box thinking about storytelling. An example is a ready-for-launch survival thriller (“Wireless”) about a young man whose car has crashed. The video shows the character when in a horizontal orientation. But when viewers flip to vertical, they instead see the interface of the character’s phone — who he is calling or texting as he tries to survive the accident. We know what the character sees. In this case, filmmakers deliver two edits of their projects, that are combined later in postproduction.
Quibi commissions will leverage all smartphones features to deliver a highly personal experience. The gyroscope (i.e. the sensor determining the position in the cell phone), the touchscreen itself, the camera, the GPS signal, time and lighting conditions will also be used to influence the content.
A prominent example of this is one of the lighthouse projects that will be available at launch: “After Dark”, a thriller by Steven Spielberg, can only be played when it is dark. That will be a different time for every user, depending on where and when – place and geographical location, time of the day they access the app – viewers will connect.
In the first year, Quibi plans to produce more than 175 new shows and 8,500 “Quibis”, comedies and thrillers, cooking shows, talk shows, news programs. At launch, not less than 50-60 shows will be available.
Quibi has three types of formats: “Movies Told in Chapters” (bigger stories in videos that are 7–10 minutes in length); “Episodic, Unscripted and Docs” (similar to TV content, covering special interest topics); and “Daily Essentials” (up to 6-minute news and information shows).
The plan is to release each day one episode of its Movies Told in Chapters, five episodes of its Episodic, Unscripted and Docs series, and 25 Daily Essentials. In total, more than three new hours of premium original content every day.
While Steven Spielberg’s After Dark is perhaps the most ambitious show that Katzenberg has lined up for Quibi, it’s one of several from top Hollywood talent. Among others in the long talent list: Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Christoph Waltz, Ben Stiller and Will Smith. Catherine Hardwicke, the author of Twilight, will produce a story around the creation of an artificial intelligence being with the working title “How They Made Her”.
The company is licensing content for seven years, meaning the studio or production company behind the project retains ownership rights. And after two years, the rights holder can repackage those 10-minute chapters into a TV show or film and take it back into the market. In an age when Netflix and Co. are moving to a model of owning everything they release, this is a solid selling point.
Furthermore, Quibi is offering creators to cover 100%-120% cost on all projects, meaning immediate profit for the rights holders. Quibi is paying anywhere from $6 million to $15 million for scripted, film-like “Lighthouse projects.” The ambition is to the most powerful syndicated marketplace Hollywood has seen in decades.
The 1,4 Billion USD came from 12 investors and all major Hollywood studios, including The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, WarnerMedia, Liberty Global, ViacomCBS and Alibaba Group.
The business plan envisions a combination of advertising and subscription revenues to ensure that profitability can be accomplished in a few years. Talking about ads, Quibi has announced to have already sold by December 2019 the 150 Million ads inventory planned for 2020.
The distribution strategy will also leverage bundles with telcos, like T-Mobile, that will distribute Quibi as part of their mobile data contracts. The marketing budget should amount at something less than 500 Million USD for Quibi’s first year. The unanswered question is when and where will Quibi extend beyond the US market and the English language markets.
Quibi is a kind of “all or nothing” bet on the ability to reinvent cinematic storytelling for the mobile-first-word. It is a bet in on Millenials and Gen-Z audiences being eager to get more elevated storytelling than what they already enjoy on their smartphones via social and sharing. It is a “Hollywood-meets-Silicon Valley” endeavour, where Hollywood reclaims its primacy on creativity against the tech platforms.
The massive amount of funds could suggest that investors bet on the success of the project, but that’s not true. There are the sceptics too. And the uncertain.
But one thing is sure: in the mobile-first-word, adaption alone (of content, experience, narrative) is not enough. We need a reinvention. We do not know if this is the right way to reinvent. But it the most significant step ever taken in mobile storytelling, potentially creating a new world of cinematic.