By now, you’ve probably seen an ad for Quibi or you may have even downloaded the app to check out what the new service has to offer while you’re stuck at home social distancing. The streaming war’s newest contender has made its way into the media and pop culture lexicon for several months now through an intriguing advertising campaign designed to generate buzz, which seems to have worked. In its first week of operation, Quibi was downloaded nearly 2 million times.
With video content in all formats being so popular, Quibi is working hard to stand out in a competitive landscape, but early reviews of the budding platform have been mixed. Fans are intrigued by its unique display and somewhat bizarre content, but critics are unsure whether the on-the-go format is relevant during a time when many people are stuck at home to abide by social distancing guidelines, as well as whether the quick-bite style works for all genres. That said, the platform has some interesting strategies that stand to make an impact on content platforms and creators as a whole.
How Quibi Fits Into The Streaming Landscape
Quibi is designed for watching premium, high-quality content via a mobile device. This strategy makes a lot of sense if you look at how much video consumption has grown over the past five years alone, particularly on mobile. According to a 2019 eMarketer and Mobile Marketer report, American adults spend 40% of their daily video viewing time on mobile devices, and that number is only expected to grow with the expansion of next-generation 5G networks nationwide.
So far, the vast majority of video content created with mobile-first in mind has been influencer content for YouTube and Instagram. Enter: Quibi.
Although the company has carved this new, mobile-first niche in the streaming space, Quibi’s on-the-go selling point isn’t resonating quite as well as the new platform had hoped since many quarantined people aren’t actually going anywhere. What’s more, the company is yet another service asking for a monthly payment, and consumers have reached the point where they feel they need to choose to make the compounding cost manageable.
Ultimately, I believe the company will sink or swim with its content, just like any other streaming service. The question is whether it will create compelling enough content for it to be worth it.
Quibi’s crown jewel is a piece of technology it has dubbed “Turnstyle,” a revolutionary video streaming technology that delivers portrait and landscape video at the same time. Although this unique display delivers an incredibly slick and modern experience, it poses a series of serious headaches to filmmakers and content creators.
To shoot video for Turnstyle, every shot and scene needs to be envisioned from both orientations so that the viewer’s experience is not only seamless but also makes sense. To achieve this, creators must upload two video files and a separate audio file, which are then synced and streamed simultaneously to your phone, so the video instantly switches when you rotate the device. The dual aspect-ratio of Quibi would require an advanced camera setup, seamless sound and video editing skills, and the patience to factor in all creative decisions in two directions for mobile optimization. It appears to be an inconvenient, difficult and expensive process.
And the new video technology has not come without its own controversy. In early March, Quibi found itself locked in a legal battle with Eko, an interactive video company, that claimed Turnstyle infringes on its patent on rotating video. While the two duke it out, one thing is certain — rotating video is here, no matter who officially brings it to market.
For content creators, it’s important to pay close attention to this new format, as it might set a larger precedent on the preferred way that people want to consume video and could potentially pave the way for video content down the road.
What Does This All Mean For Creators?
In the weeks coming out of Quibi’s launch, it’s clear the company is focused on building a loyal, mobile-first consumer audience by tapping entertainment stars who carry mass appeal, like Chrissy Tiegen and Chance the Rapper. What we’re still waiting to see is if the platform will be able to grow its business past its narrow target audience of consumers and appeal to the wider creative industry.
For content creators, Turnstyle is a double-edged sword. On one hand, if the new technology is widely adopted, it will inspire an entirely new wave of creativity that wasn’t possible before. Creatives are often the earliest adopters of new technology, so it would be an exciting opportunity for Turnstyle to evolve into an experimental platform in the future — especially once Quibi’s banked content slate runs dry in November 2020.
Although the Turnstyle technology holds the biggest promise for Quibi, it is also the biggest barrier for widespread creator adoption. Content creators are already maxed out on the number of platforms, formats and equipment — not to mention precious time — that is required to share their content, establish social influence and build their audience to stay afloat.
To put this into perspective, our company surveyed more than 400 YouTube creators in 2019 and found that the biggest challenge faced by content creators is not having enough time and resources to express their creativity — especially for those going it alone as solopreneurs. Fast-forward to today, and we have found ourselves in an interesting era somewhere between desktop and mobile. As the industry continues to process Quibi, it’s evident that “platform fatigue” has already surfaced among creators and consumers alike.
And if Quibi does take off, it will be ushering in another format that creators will need to learn quickly in order to remain relevant and profitable.