Quibi: Is Paid Short-Form Streaming Ready For Prime Time?

Dana Feldman,

As America braces for the apex of the novel coronavirus to hit and the White House’s task force on the pandemic warns that even trips to the grocery store and pharmacies should be avoided over the course of the next two weeks, those on lockdown are feeling the anxiety, stress and cabin fever set in.

What’s getting many through is the escape of binge-watching TV. Quibi, the latest entrant into the already overcrowded streaming space, launches as many consumers are tightening their belts due to terrifyingly high unemployment rates and job insecurities for those that still have one. A record 10 million people filed for unemployment benefits over the last two weeks.

Whip Media Group company TV Time decided to conduct a U.S.-based survey with 4,185 active app users between the ages of 13-to-54 years-old to see how likely Quibi is to have a successful launch. The streamer’s name is short for “Quick Bites” and what sets it apart from the competition is twofold: all content is 10 minutes or less and content is optimized for mobile viewing with technology that allows viewers to move seamlessly between full-screen portrait and landscape.

Note: this survey was conducted between February 28 and March 6, just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit and social isolation became the new normal. TV Time later surveyed its users about their viewing habits while social distancing and found 84% intend to increase their TV consumption while they’re self-isolating.

Interest in Quibi varied by age with those in Generation Z (22 and under), Millennials (23-38) and Generation X (39-54) each finding different aspects of the new streamer attractive.

For example, Millennials and Gen Z, who are much higher users of mobile and online video, are measurably more curious about the service than Gen X. With respect to the mobile viewing experience, Gen Z (22%) was 175% more likely to indicate it was an important factor than Gen X (8%).

Awareness Is Key

One key finding is that interest in the new platform, led by founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, was initially low compared to HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock. However, once participants learned about Quibi’s short-form content, mobile viewing experience, A-list talent and the variety of content, interest grew.

Those labeled as interested to very interested in the new service increased by a factor of four, jumping to 13%. On the flip side, those who were originally very uninterested declined substantially from 60% before the service was described to 43% after.

Nearly one-quarter (24%) of respondents indicated they had heard of Quibi. While this was lower than the other more prominent forthcoming services, it was up from 5% in a similar survey TV Time fielded in September 2019.

Quibi will release 175 new shows and 8,500 quick bites of content including scripted, unscripted and … [+] PHOTO COURTESY OF QUIBI.

Content Will Always Be King

A huge draw is the long list of A-listers starring in and directing content for Quibi, including Jennifer Lopez, Chrissy Teigen, Chance the Rapper, Reese Witherspoon, LeBron James, Lena Waithe, Nicole Richie, Demi Lovato, Will Smith, Laura Dern, Kevin Hart, Tyra Banks, Zac Efron, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Anna Kendrick, Joe Jonas, Kendal Jenner, Kristen Bell, Steph Curry, 50 Cent, Don Cheadle, Peter Farrelly, Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, Sam Raimi and Catherine Hardwicke.

Of the 30+ shows about to launch, TV Time’s app users are especially excited about Survive starring Sophie Turner, Most Dangerous Game starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz, The Fugitive with Kiefer Sutherland, 50 Stages of Fright with Rachel Brosnahan and Flipped with Will Forte.

The A-list talent involved piqued the interest of millennials, with 28% saying the long list of top entertainers could entice them to subscribe.

If You Build It, They Will Come But Will They Pay?

Consumers are willing to pay for multiple streaming services but they’re weary of paying for too many. Of those surveyed, several currently subscribe to an average of four paid streamers but admit they’re approaching their maximum number of subscriptions. Some are willing to subscribe to one additional paid service in the coming year.

Time will tell if short-form paid content will appeal to viewers. YouTube has more than two billion users and rising social media platform TikTok has over 500 million active users. Both, however, are free-to-use and not packaged or marketed as streaming services.

Quibi is offering a ​90-day free trial ​for those who sign-up before April 30 and plans range from $4.99 with ads up to $7.99 for the ad-free option. When asked which they prefer, a slight majority of respondents (57%) prefer the cheaper ad-supported model versus 43% for the more expensive ad-free option.

Those in the Gen Z age range have grown accustomed to skipping ads and are more willing to pay for the higher-priced subscription tier because they’re used to using premium streaming services that don’t support ads. They also like short-form content.

Gen X, on the other hand, grew up with the traditional broadcast advertising model, are more accepting of a commercial break and are more inclined to pay for the ad-supported subscription tier.

Short-Form And Variety Make Viewers Happy

In its first year, Quibi will release ​175 new original shows​ and ​8,500 quick bites of content​ including scripted, unscripted and daily news. Every day, Quibi will release over 25 new episodes (three-plus hours of content)​.

Content will fall into three tiers: Movies in Chapters​ – longer, scripted stories broken into chapters that are 7-to-10 minutes long; the Unscripted Series and Docs​ category covering all things food, fashion, travel, animals, cars, builds, music, sports, comedy, talk and variety and Daily Essentials will deliver the day’s news, sports and weather ​in 5-to-6 minutes from the BBC, NBC, ESPN, E! and TMZ, as well as the Fresh Daily by Rotten Tomatoes, the Pop5 by iHeartRadio ​and for animal lovers, All The Feels by The Dodo.

When TV Time asked its users what genres they’re most interested in, the most popular choices were dramas (78%) and comedies (76%), followed by SciFi and fantasy at 67%. When asked why, 73% want an escape from the reality of today’s news headlines, while 72% need a good laugh and 53% want to comfort-binge.

In Conclusion

Though younger consumers are attracted to Quibi’s short-form content and mobile viewing, all ages agree the A-list talent and variety of programming is extremely important. It doesn’t matter what a streamer offers if the content isn’t good.

The streaming wars have accelerated content spend at an unprecedented rate and Quibi is no exception with a projected $1.5 billion budget to create a new viewing experience category.

When respondents were asked what might motivate them to sign-up for Quibi, the top response was genuine curiosity (26%). Beyond that, variety of content (23%) and talent (23%) were the most often-cited factors.

It will be interesting to see if Quibi will appeal to all ages, including those used to a different style and way of viewing content.