We live in an accelerated age, that’s nothing new. And yet, if you’d think about it, while the ways we consume culture have been fundamentally altered in the last decade or so, can the same be said for the very nature of that culture? For example; Broadcast television, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple+, and a never-ending array of content providers are funnelling their goods at our direction in light speed and through various devices, but the content that they provide is still the same old package.
Hold on before you get all worked up about this statement - I am not talking about the content itself here. That has certainly changed to reflect our ever-changing political and cultural landscape.
I am talking about the way it is structured; feature-length films still clock around 90 minutes, televised dramas at just under an hour and sitcoms or comedic fare at something in the 20-30 minutes range. That convention for storytelling, which follows the three-act story structure (or sometimes its almost-identical sibling: the four-act one) has been a staple of the entertainment industry for over half a century.
Let that sink in for a moment - all of the revolutionary stories of this era, groundbreaking representation and genre-bending and mixing, and we still package it all in the same way they did when television was broadcast in black and white.
And that’s where Quibi comes into the picture; the very very small picture that is. It’s Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new brain child, and after years of being conceptualized and prepped, it is finally aiming to launch in 2020. Katzenberg is one of Hollywood’s most creative moguls, overseeing Walt Disney’s renaissance in the early 1990s with films like (the original) Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, and later teaming up with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen to form DreamWorks Studios - where he spearheaded the animation department. Now, he has decided that the time is ripe for a mobile-only content provider, an attitude he hopes will catapult Quibi to major success. He might be on to something too, months ahead of its launch, Quibi has recently reported over $100 million in ad sales before its launch.
However, Quibi’s presumed innovation only starts with its business strategy, as it aims to revolutionize that conventional structure stories and entertainment content have coalesced around, aiming to engage its viewers with stories that will be 8 minutes long on average. Even the company’s name is derived from the words “Quick Bites”, and represents its aim to make content more streamlined, digestible and hopefully profitable. After all, short-form content is everywhere, as adults in the US spend hours a day in front of Youtube, Snapchat and other short video clips platforms, in addition to their “conventional” content consumption which includes long-form storytelling.
These numbers are what inspired the creation of Quibi; it aims to utilize the ongoing indoctrination of US consumers (as well as the gradual rising prominence of Generation Z consumers) to short form and spontaneous video content, and put the corporate Hollywood spin on it - from signing on names such as Steven Spielberg to oversee content creation, receiving hundreds of project proposals from major studios to investing $1 billion in original content in its first few years of existence. Thanks to our inundation with shorter and shorter videos, Quibi is banking on consumers welcoming a new and wholly dedicated platform which will take our clip-based experiences to the next level.
While many other mobile-only platforms exist on the market (like Facebook Watch, Instagram's IGTV and Snapchat to name a few), it still remains to be seen whether Quibi’s bold attempt to revamp the fundamental structure of high-end, well-produced content to fit the effects of social media will give it the decisive advantage it seeks.