Aging Mogul and CEO Eye Disruption with Innovative Mobile Platform
In a market apparently oversaturated with online video streaming platforms, it may seem like an inopportune time to start up a brand new service for audiences to consume content on their personal screens. This outlook, however, has not stopped Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, two aging entertainment tycoons, in raising over a billion dollars to fund their novel mobile streaming project, Quibi.
Katzenberg and Whitman is, on paper, a corporate match made is heaven. Katzenberg was the chief of Walt Disney Studios during its 1990s animation renaissance and then went on to create DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. Whitman, meanwhile, was a tech mogul, formerly serving as CEO of eBay and Hewlett-Packard. Both in their sixties, these two veteran experts in their respective industries have recently combined their knowledge to launch Quibi—an upcoming streaming service made for the smallest of screens. Namely, mobile devices.
Of course, watching content on a smartphone or tablet is nothing new. Almost every streaming service has a mobile app, and YouTube alone has a seemingly endless amount of free content for viewers to watch wherever is convenient. Nevertheless, while most of these platforms hold true to the philosophy that the bigger-the-screen-the-better, Quibi embraces the small, personalized screen format exclusively, working it into their very production model.
Can “Turnstyle” Take Off along with 10 min “Quick Bites”?
Quibi is incorporating new technologies and resources to make their content highly personalized and appropriate for smartphone screens. Perhaps the company’s most innovative initiative is its “Turnstyle” format, whereby all content is made for both vertical and horizontal screens.
Unlike most mobile videos that are best watched horizontally, Quibi content will adjust for the phone’s orientation. Thus, there is no optimal way to watch Quibi; viewers can do so however they deem comfortable and switch back and forth in a seamless fashion.
Furthermore, Quibi has factored in the short attention spans of young audiences using mobile devices. Realizing that most mobile viewers seek quick bursts of information or entertainment, Quibi aims to keep its shows between seven and ten minutes long, providing episodic gusts of action often ending on cliffhangers. Moreover, the company is also looking to expand its daily video programming, whereby new content comes out each day.
While this high-turnover temporal model may appear as a mere means of reducing costs for the up-and-coming Quibi, Katzenberg and Whitman are far from pinching pennies for the service. Estimates claim that Quibi will pay its creators up to $125,000 for every minute of scripted and unscripted content, and around $10,000 for the daily programming. This is a bold, yet consciences effort to ensure quality, thus helping Quibi stand out amongst the competition and justify its subscription cost—$4.99 a month with ads, or $7.99 without ads.
The prospect of quality content on Quibi is further confirmed by the copious prestigious names already attached to the service. As aforementioned, Katzenberg and Whitman are far from beginners in the industry, and they have long lists of professional connections. Hence, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, Steven Soderbergh, Sam Raimi, Anna Kendrick, Kevin Hart, Jennifer Lopez and Zac Efron amongst other A-list names have already committed to Quibi.
Likewise, the company already has investment deals with some of the biggest studios in Hollywood including Disney and Warner Brothers, and will have content connected to ESPN, NBC News, and BBC.
Quibi’s exhaustive and impressive list of attached talent is made possible in no small part thanks to Katzenberg and Whitman’s networking prowess. However, the company is also incentivizing its creative minds with unprecedented terrain to explore on.
Additionally, Quibi promises its talent the right to retain ownership, after a specified interval, over creations. That way, no projects or characters are eternally bound to Quibi—directors can take their ideas to new platforms if need be and can keep all merchandizing and marketing rights to themselves. In a world where syndication dominates the entertainment industry, this is a very rare and appealing offer.
”Too Rich to Fail” Motto seems Apt, and Resonates with with Big Name Talent
Some of the shows on Quibi are already well into production or even post-production. Sam Raimi is working on an anthology series titled “Fifty States of Fright,” where he will be going back to his early horror roots as a filmmaker. Meanwhile, Steven Soderbergh is directing a suspenseful series called “Wireless” for the platform.
The projects that have garnered the most buzz, however, include a documentary series on DC and Marvel Comics spearheaded by “Avengers: Endgame” directors Joe and Anthony Russo, as well as a revived continuation of the hit Comedy Central show “Reno 911!” Projects from Spielberg and Del Toro are yet to be fleshed out, but the two filmmakers’ unparalleled reputations are likely to bring Quibi even more interest.
In short, the industry is certainly on board with Quibi. The real question now is whether or not consumers will be into it. With so much free content to scroll through on one’s phone, many viewers might not see adequate reason to pay a monthly fee for particular shows—especially when they are already paying for Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other services.
Quibi is certainly showing creativity in their use of the mobile platform and they definitely have a lot of promising talent in their corner. Nevertheless, some might deem Quibi’s mobile innovations as excessive gimmicks, and their talent as impressive, but not quite alluring enough of an end to justify the means.
A lot of skepticism existis that this entirely new format, in terms of show length, cost and price as well as the somewhat wacky “turnstyle” tech has a chance to become established. In some ways it is similar to Apple TV+ in the sense that the massive cash hoard backing each service (Quibi at least $1.4 Billion, Apple TV+ $6 Billion+) will ensure that, regardless of how long it takes to become popular with the public, in the end they are “too rich to fail”.
We won’t really know until April 6th, when Quibi officially launches and enters into the streaming war as a tactical and unpredictable underdog.
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