A Quick Bite Post Mortem For For Quibi: Hollywood Still Doesn't Get The Internet

from the it-ain't-about-the-content dept

So Quibi, the Hollywood dream of creating a new “professional” video streaming service by throwing $1.75 billion at Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman and hoping they could create something, lasted all of 199 days before announcing that it was throwing in the towel (even though it apparently still has a chunk of that cash on hand, which it will be handing back to some investors). As we noted when it launched, Quibi is the perfect example of Hollywood thinking about the internet. It overvalued the content (and believed that you got the best content by throwing money at big names), and completely undervalued the internet and the fact that the killer application of the internet is community and communication.

For decades now, we’ve pointed out time and time again that Hollywood seems to view the internet through the lens of their existing industry — one built up with a few giant gatekeepers who “greenlight” what content gets made — and that the content they pick must be financed with ungodly sums of money. I’m reminded of the former NBC exec who quizzed me years ago about how to make sure his company could keep making $200 million movies. As I’ve noted repeatedly in the 15 years since I was challenged over that, the whole question is wrong. No one in the tech industry demands that others explain “how do we keep making $5,000 computers.” The industry looks at how best to serve customers — and often looks for creative ways to do it cheaper and more efficiently, rather than just setting a cost and tossing cash into it.

Quibi was the result of this kind of hubris: taking the Hollywood approach to an internet world. And it showed.

As James Surowiecki highlights in his own post-mortem, Quibi is basically the opposite of what a compelling internet service is because it relies on the idea of the brilliant visionary anointing the best content, rather than letting it bubble up via the wisdom of the crowds.

I find it notable that Quibi shut down the week that there was a flood of stories (and TV commercials) featuring Nathan Apodaca, the Idaho potato farmer who’s random TikTok video of himself on a skateboarding heading into work (after his truck broke down) while drinking cranberry juice from a giant bottle and singling along to Fleetwood Mac went super viral. It was also a “quick bite” video, but it was basically the anti-Quibi. That one random video going viral has even brought Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” back onto the charts 43 years after the song came out.

That’s the power of the internet. It allows anyone to create. It allows anyone to share. And out of all of that, it allows some amazing content to bubble up, because tons of people like it — and not because some super rich Hollywood dude decides “this is what the people want.”

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Companies: quibi

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Comments on “A Quick Bite Post Mortem For For Quibi: Hollywood Still Doesn't Get The Internet”

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33 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

A service designed just for phones. Makes no sense and it allowed no screenshots if people want to watch 10 minute videos there’s millions of videos on YouTube or look on tik Tok for short videos
Action or comedys need at least 30 minutes to tell a story
People can watch hulu for nothing
Disney has star wars and marvel
A new video service has to have something special to get
people to pay a subscription
People are staying at home binge watching Netflix or programs like friends or the office or the latest reality show
Maybe there’s no room in the market for a new streaming TV service
It would have a better chance if the shows were 20 minutes
and be viewable on tvs or laptops and pcs

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

Top Down Model

The hollywood executives believe that it is their ideas that are the genius. If they don’t get to pick and choose what people want to watch, then there is no hierarchy to justify their large salaries. Thanks to the internet, there is no reason to pick and choose what entertainment does or doesn’t get shown. Once upon a time, the number of shows that could be funded and shown on TV or movie format was finite. Nowadays, there’s no need for that decision maker.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Thanks to the internet, there is no reason to pick and choose what entertainment does or doesn’t get shown.

…unless someone happens to run a social media service, in which case you believe the government should have every right to pick and choose for that someone what entertainment does or doesn’t get shown on their service.

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

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Rick Astley’s had a lot of views without an algorithm being involved. Gangnam Style hit record numbers because people chose to watch it. .. and so on.

Algorithms can have a hand in getting something noticed, but they can’t control the whole story, especially if the reporting is accurate and those views represent people who watched a decent amount of the video, not the people who skip in 2 seconds.

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

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

"The rick roll trolling was no doubt the cause for youtube recommending Mr. Astley so often."

That’s my point – he was trending on YouTube for reasons that had nothing to do with algorithms, so assuming that they have to be involved with the newer trending video may not be true.

"I personally felt there were far, far worse videos than the Rick Roll getting pushed by the troll hordes…"

There were indeed. The rickroll was a nice reminder that it’s not always about people trying to be horrific to each other.

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

Re: Re:

Nah, that’s fine. There’s many successful niche businesses and business models I’ve never heard of.

I’d say a much bigger sign that something is wrong with a business model is when "the first time someone hears about it" happens multiple times — for the same someone.

As an example, I first heard about Quibi several days ago, when I saw the announcement it was closing down.

And yet, the link in the article’s first paragraph, that points to a previous TD article about it from half a year ago… is marked as visited.

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

Re: Re:

"Something seriously wrong with business model when the first time someone hears about it is the announcement it’s over."

No, that’s a problem with marketing, no business model. I guarantee that there’s services that have been running for years that you haven’t personally heard of.

But, the only things I’ve ever heard about Quibi before this announcement were in the context of how terrible their business concept was generally, and how they had the misfortune of launching at the exact time where a pandemic meant that their targeted use cases (people on the move trying to fit in quick bites of entertainment) essentially disappeared. Then, because they were so closely tied to mobile use that people stuck at home who wanted to use the service didn’t even have the option of streaming to their TVs instead.

That’s the problem. They were not only on shaky ground with their concept, but couldn’t react to fast moving changes in consumer demand, nor did they allow for other known use cases at their launch.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"They were not only on shaky ground with their concept, but couldn’t react to fast moving changes in consumer demand, nor did they allow for other known use cases at their launch."

Well, if they’d been upfront enough with themselves to admit they were trying to sell shoddy garbage at inflated prices to people not really interested in that garbage in the first place, they might have been able to pull a Barnum by lying just a little bit more about the whole thing.

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

"It overvalued the content (and believed that you got the best content by throwing money at big names), and completely undervalued the internet and the fact that the killer application of the internet is community and communication"

I’d say that another major problem is that they made the major mistake of trying to dictate how people consume content rather than give them options. They tied the platform to mobile, not giving the choice for other devices to begin with – a bad move anyway, but disastrous when consumer demand was suddenly changed by unpredictable forced. Then, they got movies but forced you to consume in 10 minute chunks. That’s annoying at the best of time, but there’s no added value to doing that compared to simply streaming a movie on Netflix, and carrying on from the moment you left off next time you load it.

This another good reason why they ultimately failed. It wasn’t "here’s this cool content", it was "here’s this cool content that you will consume on our terms and on our schedule". So, people chose to use the competitors that gave them more choice and more freedom.

Bloof (profile) says:

It’s not Hollywood, a lot of silicon valley projects are just bad ideas, built on the notion of breaking laws and/or dumping money in a deep, deep hole until the hole is close enough to half filled that they can float it on the stock market and sell it on to the next sucker.

It’s just another in a long line of great ideas from the culture that thought renting desks was an idea worth billions.

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

Re: Re:

"It’s just another in a long line of great ideas from the culture that thought renting desks was an idea worth billions."

Well, at a quick glance, it is, or at least has been. According to Wikipedia at least, WeWork’s revenue was $3.5 billion, and they aren’t the only player in that market. So, they were correct in that sense, even if you have questions about long term viability.

But, I’d argue here that the problem isn’t "Silicon Valley", it’s the venture capitalists and other entities that finance these companies. The issue you have would appear not not be that someone came up with the idea to rent office space, but the fact that people have decided to fund the idea to the tune of billions.

That’s the issue with Quibi as well. The problem isn’t the fact that "silicon valley" came up with an idea so apparently doomed to fail (though I’d argue that it’s a major stretch to call this an SV project rather than a "Hollywood" idea given the pedigree of Jeffrey Katzenberg). The problem is that so many people decided to fund the idea. Then, you look at a list of the primary investors, and it’s a list of Hollywood studios and investment banks, not "silicon valley".

Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

WeWork was billions in debt, losing $219,000 an hour at one point, major assets were not owned by the company and it was peeing away money on unrelated vanity projects like a rich person’s idea of school. A company losing money, unlikely to ever make money with a business model anyone can replicate is not worth billions, it’s just the modern equivalent of a salted goldmine, dressed up and hyped up then sold to rubes by a charismatic huckster, and Quibi, like wework is just another of those fresh off the production line.

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

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"WeWork was billions in debt, losing $219,000 an hour at one point, major assets were not owned by the company and it was peeing away money on unrelated vanity projects like a rich person’s idea of school."

…and propped up by non-Silicon Valley entities who poured money into it. Which is my point.

You’re angry at "silicon valley" for things that investment banks, venture capitalists and movie studios are doing.

Bloof (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Where did these moneypit companies originate? Where is being a ‘disruptor’ hailed as some great thing because you’ve decided to launch into an existing industry without obeying any legal protections for employees? Yes, the venture capitalists deserve blame, but to pretend the culture in sillicon valley is in no way responsible for the garbage companies it churns out is nonsense.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Alternatives to Hollywood

For decades now, we’ve pointed out time and time again that Hollywood seems to view the internet through the lens of their existing industry — one built up with a few giant gatekeepers who "greenlight" what content gets made — and that the content they pick must be financed with ungodly sums of money. I’m reminded of the former NBC exec who quizzed me years ago about how to make sure his company could keep making $200 million movies. As I’ve noted repeatedly in the 15 years since I was challenged over that, the whole question is wrong. No one in the tech industry demands that others explain "how do we keep making $5,000 computers." The industry looks at how best to serve customers — and often looks for creative ways to do it cheaper and more efficiently, rather than just setting a cost and tossing cash into it.

Not only that, but I’ve been on a high as of late getting into Blender Open Movies. Every single one was crowdfunded, and every single one is licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution license. That means that legally, you can do whatever the fuck you want with them as long as you credit where you got them from. It doesn’t hurt that in some cases (especially in Spring), the quality of the short movie is exceptionally good! To me, it’s just like Pixar, but waaaaaayyyy better because it’s open source (because the source assets are on the blender cloud web site)! Considering that we’re all in a pandemic, who really needs Disney at this point in time when we have open source CGI-animated movies?

Anonymous Coward says:

The wisdom of the crowds?!

WISDOM:
Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. (courtesy Wikipedia)

Were the above the case in crowds, then the Hollywood model would work. There would be an educated estimate by equally wise people of the probabilities for different entertainment concepts. The most probable of the concepts would be funded and presented. If the estimate were correct, then the crowds would respond and there would be financial profit for Hollywood and the crowds would have the entertainment they want (mostly, if not perfectly)

On the other hand, I’ll grant that the crowds have experience. However I request evidence that, integrated over the whole, that crowds have knowledge, understanding, common sense and insight. As for for crowds thinking, by basic definition crowds may act but certainly don’t think.

No, I contend that crowds will determine what they want, mostly by an iterative emotional and argumentation mechanism. The emotional aspect has so many variables (race, age, nationality, taste, experience and so on) that even a cursory evaluation has a huge margin for error. The argumentation between the emotionally driven elements is a nearly random process. Therefore, any top down, hierarchical decision making process is likely less successful than a purely random one. The top down, hierarchical process will only pick the selections the top wants. The likelihood of matching the selection process of the crowds, from whom the top decision makers isolate themselves as much as possible, is virtually zero.

Thus, there is little likelihood of success for Hollywood in it’s current decision process.

I offer the following as food for debate. Perhaps it would be better (regardless of political correctness) to study the demographics of target audiences, then several make short, cheap introductory segments, see what flies and the pattern of acceptance of each segment, THEN decide what to make with a big budget. Also, maybe instead of one big budget item, a series of medium budget items can be started with the later items being dependent on the success and pattern of acceptance of the earlier items.

Furthermore, that the investment community continues to fund such an obviously illogical and unsuccessful process indicates that there is little wisdom in the investment community.

Rekrul says:

Maybe I’m not the target audience, but from what I’ve seen, they had exactly two shows that appealed to me;

Don’t Look Deeper – An interesting sci-fi take on artificial intelligence.

50 States of Fright – A horror anthology that actually got a second season.

A third show, Alive, sounded vaguely interesting, but I haven’t seen it.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think there’s a complex formula that watchs the videos
you like and serves up similar videos if a video gets alot of views it will appear on the front page.
And the Fleetwood mac video was shown on many websites as it went viral
I think most big media company’s are now launching steaming TV services.
But even with a billion to spend it takes time to build up a range of programs that people will pay to watch
Quibi maybe had 2 or 3 good programs but not enough
to compete with Netflix hbo or Disney

Blocking screenshots on a new TV app is stupid
Making it hard for ordinary users to promote it or even make memes about it

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