Quibi Is What Happens When Hollywood Overvalues Content And Undervalues Community

from the how-are-you-doing-fellow-kids dept

As you may have heard (and may still being bombarded by ads for) recently, a new video streaming service called Quibi launched to much fanfare. The fanfare was not around the technology or the content, mind you, but around the fact that there were some famous people involved (namely: former Disney/Dreamworks exec Jeffrey Katzenberg and, to a lesser extent, former eBay/HP CEO Meg Whitman — who had been a Disney and Dreamworks exec earlier) and the ridiculous fact that the company raised nearly $2 billion before it even had launched. There was some buzz about it leading up to launch… but mostly from the media which always falls for the story of the company that raises a ton of money and has some famous person in charge.

So far, however, Quibi appears to be yet another example of a point I made about Hollywood and the internet over a decade ago: entertainment execs have a long history of overvaluing the content and undervaluing users and what they want. Sometimes I’ve described this as overvaluing content and undervaluing technology (which plays into the whole Hollywood/Silicon Valley divide), but it’s actually something different than that, which is ably shown by the complete dumpster fire that Quibi has been so far. They spent silly amounts of money on content, and then seemed to focus the “technology” money on a completely pointless and weird setup where the orientation of your devices changes what you see (that is, if you hold your phone in portrait orientation, what you see is not just a scrunched up landscape mode, but something different). That seems like the kind of thing that a bunch of out-of-touch execs would sit around and brainstorm without any understanding whatsoever of how real people use devices. At best it seems like an attempt to try again with Verizon’s brain-dead Go90 service that no one ever used.

And, so far Quibi’s living down to expectations. Within a week of its launch, things were not looking good:

After a quick moment in the spotlight, Quibi has tanked in the US iPhone app rankings.

The streaming app had a strong debut last week as the fourth most downloaded iPhone app, but quickly fell in the rankings. Yesterday, it dropped out of the top 50, and today it’s the 71st most popular app in the US, according to data from analytics firm App Annie.

Quibi is now less popular than Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video among US iPhone users. It’s also ranked below an ASMR Slicing app, the Calm meditation app, and the Roku app that functions as a TV remote.


And it’s never a good sign when your head of marketing quits two weeks after launch… in the midst of a global pandemic.

Hell, even the content — which, again, was supposed to be central to Quibi’s strategy, and which they threw a ton of money at — isn’t wowing anyone:

The app itself functions as promised. The shows, though, are a mess. Quibi shows all share a few qualities: They?re short, with episode run times under ten minutes. Short doesn?t have to mean chintzy or trivial, but Quibi shows almost universally feel cheaper and less memorable than similar stuff on other platforms. The Quibi shows that are meant to seem like TV shows do feel like TV shows (Run This Town, Shape of Pasta, Murder House Flip), but their compressed run times and thoughtless cinematography just remind you of how much better they could be if they were TV shows. Camera angles and scene edits look identical to the visual design of a typical TV show, full of panning cameras and long shots, and it?s seemingly meant to signal that ?this is a serious, expensive TV show!? Instead, it signals that no one?s put much effort into thinking about what this should look like when played in a vertical format on a phone. The Quibi shows that seem closest to YouTube series (Dishmantled, Gayme Show, Memory Hole) fare better, but even those feel half-hearted, all shell and no inner oomph. The worst are the movies, like When the Streetlights Go On or Most Dangerous Game, which Quibi advertises as ?movies in chapters.? In their widescreen cinematography, the beats of each scene, the way they?ve been awkwardly crammed into tiny chunks, I swear you can still hear them screaming, ?I?m a movie!? even as Quibi shovels dirt over their short-form-mobile-storytelling graves.

Meanwhile, almost everything that Quibi has done suggests that they really don’t understand how to build a modern internet service, which starts and ends with building up a supportive community. Instead, Quibi seems to have taken some of their way-too-large-bank-account and focused on pissing off the few people who like what they do. First, they added some dumb DRM to stop people from taking screenshots (one of a few ways that content goes viral these days):

Quibi was designed from the ground up to be a mobile experience. A big part of what people do with their phones is share. They share photos from their lives on TikTok, information with strangers on Twitter, and swap memes with people on Facebook. Quibi wants to be part of that mobile universe. But by disabling the ability to let people share what they?re seeing, it has shut down a core experience that comes with being on our phones. For a self-proclaimed game-changing mobile experience, it isn?t very mobile-friendly.

Indeed, the inability to create any kind of meme-ification of Quibi content seems to be a recognition by Quibi execs that their content just isn’t very good. As Kathryn VanArendonk wrote at Vulture: Let Me Screenshot Your Quibi Show, Cowards:

Screenshots, memes, GIFs, and other small excerpts are essentially forms of quotation. They act as shareable pieces of larger works, sometimes with the goal of illuminating the work they come from, but often getting cut away from their original contexts, sent out into the world to stand on their own and gather their own meanings. GIFs are the most common out-of-context excerpts of longer video works, so expressive and self-sufficient that they can communicate an idea without carrying along any of their original framework. Screenshots can function the same way, often speaking more toward the context in which they?re being deployed than referencing the original work. They become their own form of language, but as they circulate and accrete new meanings, they also make the images, reactions, stories, and personalities from the original work more familiar, more of a bedrock part of cultural discourse. Carole Baskin?s ?Hey all you cool cats and kittens!? line quickly became a reference to Tiger King, for instance, but it?s also accrued its own implications separate from the show ? it?s a weird greeting, an awkwardly mannered way to start speaking, a intro with just a touch of self-awareness and also not nearly enough social awareness.

And then… apparently Quibi has money to spare on lawyers, rather than people who actually understand the internet, because they actually sent a cease-and-desist letter to what might be the only podcast that likes Quibi:

Rob Dezendorf and Danielle Gibson started a show formerly called Quibiverse, a fan space to discuss the various ?quick bite? content offered by the new streamer. However, the creators say that after 17 episodes, they were sent a cease-and-desist. Per Dezendoorf: ?They were like, ?Well, you can?t use the name Quibi, you can?t tell anyone that you?re about Quibi, you can talk about Quibi, but no one can know through your title and you can?t have any artwork that resembles our stuff.?? Gibson added: ?It just felt so surreal to get a cease-and-desist from a billion-dollar company, about our fan podcast, in the midst of a global health crisis.?

In the end, Quibi looks like it may be heading in the same direction as other such ideas that throw a lot of money at streaming content without actually understanding what makes an internet service work (such as a community of fans). As Paul Tassi at Forbes recently wrote, Quibi seems destined to be the service that everyone’s heard of and no one uses:

And yet, since Quibi?s launch during the pandemic lockdown, I have had zero, actual organic conversation about the service with?anyone.

None of my real-life friends have even heard of it, unless they?ve been mildly annoyed by the ads like I?ve been, but none are watching. The only people on my social media channels that have seen any Quibi shows are entertainment journalists where it?s quite literally their job to watch and report back what they find.

It’s sad how frequently this sort of thing happens, and it would be better if Hollywood didn’t always rush into things assuming it knows best (especially about technology) and assuming that all you need to do is throw a lot of money at content to make an internet service.

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Companies: quibi

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Comments on “Quibi Is What Happens When Hollywood Overvalues Content And Undervalues Community”

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This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I believe the point they were trying to make is that by making it impossible to save the content so that copies are available the ‘deal’ of copyright, ‘we give you monopoly power over X content for Y years, after which the public gets it’ has been broken, with the implied question being that if one side is going to go out of their way to not uphold their end of the bargain why should they get to benefit from it?

Finishing says:

Re: Re: Google is out of control

Google has gone too far with this recording suddenly for no apparent reason and then you get a message it says thank you got that I need more information please keep going. You know I sent a friend my credit card information and they posted that that message on my Facebook posted it there! Can you imagine that? They are F%#$@&ing out
of their mind

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It’s the copyright cult, remember? We’ve seen this exact fraud scheme happening before, with the early audio streaming "services" launched by RIAA members. Only that this time around tinseltown follows the exact same recipe.

1) Start a hyped service, getting as much cash invested as possible.
2) Spend all the start capital on licenses belonging to the various mother companies and on massive salaries and bonuses to the execs – who will all be Big Names(TM) from well-known giants in the media industry.
3) Make a token effort of running the damn service which then immediately fails because the copyright cult won’t let a single technician who knows what they’re doing be part of development and the user interface has been designed to some bad 80’s software standard notorious for being user-hostile.
4) When the service fails everyone vested in the gatekeeper industry has profited massively from direct salaries, bonuses, licenses and associated services. The only one’s losing out are the hopefuls thinking the Big Names(TM) were a vouched guarantee of quality.

Two added bonuses are that the copyright cult afterwards gets to complain that "We tried the streaming angle, on-demand, catering to the pirates. Didn’t work" – and that the flimsy fraud scheme can be meshed into standard hollywood accounting without a hitch which makes it even better when it collapses as planned.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Jamie says:

I’ve started referring to companies like this as "exec service" companies. They’re like fan service, but for out of touch executives.

Build a company that operates the way they want the market to work and they can play make-believe with it for a while, until all the fun runs down. By that time, there’s some new shiny that makes them afraid, so you build a new one and repeat.

It is a pretty expensive hobby, but, you know, yachts are passe, private space companies are still pretty exclusive and lawsuits are risky, so the merely super rich do what they must to get by.

hegemon13 says:

So-so Content

I signed up out of curiosity for the 90-day free trial. So far, the content has been okay, with the Sam Raimi produced 50 States of Fear being the standout so far. But when that show, which would be mediocre on any other service, is the highlight so far, it’s definitely not a service I would pay for. With the limited content, limited access, and limited quality, it really shouldn’t cost much more than $1/month.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Oblate (profile) says:

I guess it's a matter of perspective...

It seems to me like this company is wildly successful at its’ core mission.

the company raised nearly $2 billion before it even had launched.

It’s just that the core mission seems to be to separate money from gullible investors, not whatever you thought it was with videos or something (a summary of the video features described above sounds like something the Onion would put out on a slow day).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Short Content - Do Users Want It?

When I worked for Korea’s SK Telecom 2001-2003, we were one of the first two countries with 3G networks, and we were experimenting and learning a lot about mobile streaming (phone-based) video.

We had very limited capacity on the network, so the company started by funding and producing short, "bite sized" content. The hope was that in this usage context, people wouldn’t want long-form content, but short clips to fill their bus ride, etc.

So, we provided the content, and the early adopters LOVED mobile video. What’s more, they were willing to pay for it, premium prices on their network use, and payment for the content. We were pretty sure we had a winner.

But when the company surveyed the users about likes/dislikes, one bit of information was unequivocal: They didn’t want custom, bite-sized content. They wanted their usual content. They wanted the same stuff they wanted at home or on a PC. This was surprising to us – and unfortunately, was also not something we had the mobile network capacity to provide. But that lesson has stuck with me:

  • People want some short content, for example: cat videos, tik tok, vine, etc. And they want some long content, for example: streaming TV, Netflix, Movies, sports. And, importantly, they want them whether they are at home, out of home, on a TV, on a PC, or on a phone. The context has proven to have little impact on the content desired.

Later on, as 3G and 4G hit North America, the "prevailing wisdom" here was very much a repeat of what we had thought in 2002 in S. Korea: people want shorter content on their phones. I heard the term "snackable video content" a lot. But this was wrong. This was always wrong.

Anyhow, I don’t know precisely how this affects Quibi, but I do know that limiting content to "bite sized" has mixed results.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
nerdrage (profile) says:

Re: Short Content - Do Users Want It?

My own viewing habits are probably nothing out of the ordinary:

When I used to commute to the office, I would often watch short bite videos on my phone. YouTube and Weather Channel (crazy Russian drivers, Chinese sinkholes eating buses) were my frequent picks. They were ad supported and free.

And at home, my habits were totally different. I’d watch ad-free services like Netflix and Prime that I paid for. I would sit down and watch things for an hour or an hour and a half (trying to limit the binge watching to a minimum, though it’s always a temptation).

So those are two very different things: YouTube style (free, ad-supported, short, on the go) or Netflix style (paid, ad-free, long to very-long, at home). Quibi doesn’t fit into either. It’s closest to YouTube but would have to not charge money, and not bother with movies that really do want to be seen in longer than 10 minute chunks and at that point, you’re right back to the cat videos and bus-eating sinkholes, and why should advertisers do a deal with you instead of YouTube which reaches billions of global viewers?

The fundamental problem here is, streaming is actually really crowded and competitive, with a few big players like Google, Netflix, Amazon and Disney hogging the audience and the advertisers. It’s late for even big corporations like AT&T and Comcast to be trying to break in. Forget some start up, even with a billion or two. Apple is battling in this field, and their war chest is more like $100 billion. Two billion? Pfft!

Anonymous Coward says:

YouTube has videos on it from 3minutes to 3hour.s
Theres a reason why every TV show is at least 20minutes long trying to cram in a story with plot characters action into ten minutes is impossible
And quibi seems to hate the web.
Theres no popular show on TV that is not shared using gifs. Screens hots, s or memes
Maybe there’s room for a TV service on phones but
the 10minute limit is pointless. Like selling a car that only goes up to 50miles per hour

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And there are videos longer than that. Paint drying for 10 hours for example (yes an actual YT video). And there’s at least one video that is much, much longer.

"Most people know ChilledCow’s popular LoFi hip-hop channel as the constant live stream starring an anime girl doing her homework. Over the weekend, following a mistaken suspension from YouTube, the account was terminated, and the live stream came to an end. As a result, ChilledCow produced one of the longest videos in YouTube history — more than 13,000 hours — and amassed 218 million views in the process."


And of course here’s one that’s about as short as can be. There are probably a bunch more like it. There is no point to it other than to be the shortest video possible.


This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

I have been told, although I don’t know how accurate this is, that the reason the entertainment industry is so confident about the success of Quibi, is that the content will be inexpensive to produce. Reportedly, the network will not have to begin paying writers for this material at the same rate they pay for other shows. It has something to do with the short duration of each Quibi episode, and the way work has been historically defined, as given in contracts with the Screen Writer’s Guild. Even if true, this doesn’t seem like a sustainable situation, because if Quibi were to become successful, no doubt the SWG would insist on better contract terms.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
some random person says:

Re: Quibi brainstorming session

"YES! just like TV but , hear me out here , worse"

Ah yes, the recurring idiocy of legacy players, that people will want something that’s worse than the thing they already use.

Mike mentions Go90, my sole experience of which was watching National Women’s Soccer League games, where the fandom re-christened it Stop90 due to the frequent stream stuttering.
It was a real step down from YouTube, which the league had used previously.

PNRCinema (profile) says:

From almost the moment it was announced...

I have said – FREQUENTLY – that Quibi was going to be one of the biggest BOMBS ever launched in the tech world. It’s bombed so bad that next week they’re releasing an app for various platforms so you can watch Quibi on your TV – which goes completely AGAINST what they were trying to do. When will Katzenberg ever learn? He just can’t do ANYTHING right….

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
DocGerbil100 (profile) says:

I don’t know what the opposite of the Streisand Effect is, but it seems like Quibi is doing it’s damnedest to find out. I honestly can’t remember ever seeing any major venture work so hard to look like some kind of designed-to-fail tax dodge.

Ads that avoid explaining what the product is, complete lockdown on all social media, content that needs to be watched at least two or three times to get the most out of it… hey, thanks Quibi, you’ve sold us a set of errands, delivered in the form of video landmine shrapnel – just what we all wanted!

Evidently nobody’s learned from similar past failures such as the various multi-angle DVD, satellite & cable services, most of VR’s history, etc. If anyone misses Quibi after it goes under, just wait a while, I’m sure there’ll be another dead-before-launch service coming along in just a year or two…

Or you could just replay Quibi’s content on YouTube, where most of it’s content is more-or-less guaranteed to end up.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No worries on their part, I mean it’s not like adblockers are all but essential these days to protect your computer and avoid being buried under an avalanche of terrible ads, so I don’t imagine that scenario will have played out with too many people.

I mean really, can you even imagine how utterly boring the internet would be without auto-playing, audible and/or flashing ads every five gorram seconds? Who would ever want to deal with that?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Meg Whitman? Winner of the VERY-hotly-contested "Who can be the worst HP-CEO EVER?" contest? Couldn’t they find some indigent immigrant who’d made a living for his family by subcontracting corporate janitorial services? Someone who’d worked a Chicago chili-dog cart? Someone who’d shown ANY skill whatsoever–besides winning unpopularity contests by turning large amounts of money into steaming methane-emitting biomatter?

This will not be an ACCIDENTAL debacle. This is an ARRANGED debacle.

Steve says:

So half-baked

I would say its hard to imagine how the raised and spent all that money on such a half-baked idea, but I’ve seen so many ads leading up to the launch that it doesn’t surprise me.

It seems like literally the only reason for Quibi to exist is to be a distribution channel they can control. Otherwise they could have just started a new Youtube channel, and given all the money to the content creators to make the best shows possible. The shows would have gotten much wider exposure and views, and even generated more revenue.

In any case there are so many existing streaming channels out there both paid and ad-driven, that the Quibi platform itself could only ever add friction to the actual content viewership- even if it was totally free.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
nerdrage (profile) says:

and the next disaster up is HBO Max

Quibi is what happens when rich, out of touch idiots launch businesses while living in a bubble where all they ever talk to is other rich, out of touch idiots.

Any average person would have immediately seen the flaw in the business model: if the appeal is an impulse viewing, then you have to have impulse pricing: free, ad-supported. YouTube already figured out this business model years ago. You wanna charge people money, you better be giving them Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian, stuff like that. Expensive stuff.

And forget the ads, you can’t charge money and show ads. People are catching onto what a lousy deal that is. Either charge money or show ads.

HBO Max is going to have an underwhelming launch because it’s priced too high and doesn’t have a single new show for launch that everyone is talking about now. They needed their own Mandalorian. Without it…ouch. If this was going to be a hit, you’d be seeing the chatter online about that show they needed that doesn’t exist.

But even worse will be Peacock. Talk about nothing. Why are they even bothering?

Chris says:

As if your grandma just discovered your phone has different vertical and horizontal modes, and thought that was so revolutionary as to be a billion dollar idea. I read about this service over a year ago and laughed out loud.

Older luddite executives in tech who’ve amassed wealth and prestige but have no idea what the market wants anymore are definitely a thing, I’ve worked with them.

It is still delightful such a bad idea can get funded, because it shows that if you have a good idea you must only persevere, there’s money out there! 😉

If anybody was worried they might be able to throw enough money at this to make it work– that’s looking to not be the case, hopefully reaffirming your faith in humanity that you need good ideas executed thoughtfully (the Jedi), versus a lot of money and a lust for more (the Sith).

Finishing says:

Google is out of control

Google has gone too far with this recording suddenly for no apparent reason and then you get a message it says thank you got that I need more information please keep going. You know I sent a friend my credit card information and they posted that that message on my Facebook posted it there! Can you imagine that? They are F%#$@&ing out
of their mind

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