Facebook Watch and IGTV move from predator to prey

We can, and will, spend time talking about IGTV but have you ever heard of Quibi? Odds are unless you’re checking for updates on Crunchbase and AngelList frequently or have a friend deep in the Hollywood or Silicon Valley scenes then chances are this one easily slipped past you. Quibi, short for Quick Bites, is a soon-to-be streaming vertical video platform that will combine bits and pieces from, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and Snapchat, IGTV and Facebook Watch but with production value and storyline everyday users cannot provide. What silver-tongued genius’ are behind such an innovative industry binding venture? Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman of course. The Walt Disney Company and HP alum have spotted a blue ocean in streaming mobile vertical video and plan to set sail toward the horizon with all competitors behind.

Creative minds like Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Lords of Dogtown), Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, The Shape of Water) and Lena Waithe (Master of None) have all been sold on the platform and have begun working on their mini masterpieces.

The MAU figures for IGTV, a platform that’s been kicking around since June of last year, have remained quite elusive but big brother Facebook Watch hasn’t fared much better (400 million MAU, 17% of total MAU) despite its full year on the market and its large user base. It appears Whitman and Katzenberg have set out to do the one thing that those over at other platforms overlooked and that understands how people use their mobile devices in relation to their products, over time. Say, the course of a day.

Mobile vertical content is consumed in bite-sized increments and at the discretion of the user and their schedule. Throughout the day mobiles are constantly bombarded by a number of distractions, from emails to Slack channel updates, to push notifications and maybe the occasional Tinder match thus the likelihood for a fractioned viewing is very high. Why not make bite-sized, well-produced content people can digest throughout their day? The folks at Quibi have stated that these rich quick bites will be 10 minutes in length offering viewers a bite of viewing during breakfast if they wish, another one on the way to work, a chunky plate of content for lunch, another for the ride home and a hefty sweet treat of visual stimuli whilst laying in bed. Now, nobody other those in the various teams and departments within the company truly knows how Quibi will work through and through from a user experience/user interface perspective but its apparent that it is promising what others are lacking in production and story.

Personally speaking, few on Instagram (Jesse Driftwood excluded) have truly embraced the vertical format by creating unique content, framed for that narrow window. Most at this early-ish stage have just rehashed pre-existing content where the video is zoomed in to fit the more essential parts of the video and leaving your eyes strained, tired and bloodshot. Competing with a platform like this will take a significant investment in production and manufacturing which, in theory, can be done but would dip deep into the coffers and test the faith of their product; the price tag may be too much to pay for a race to a finish line where no trophy is awarded.

What’s more likely to happen is they will use Quibi as the Guinea Pig and either create their version or attempt to buy it outright. Standard operating procedure. Competing with Quibi will be hard to do but how have they managed to pull this off? 1bn in backing from industry titans like MGM Studios, The Walt Disney Company, Sony Pictures, Alibaba Group and Madrone Capital Partners may have something to do with it.

Whitman has said there would be an ad-free version with a small price tag somewhere around $8 per month but what all the marketers, advertisers and brands out there want to know is if there will be a version that will allow advertising. This is confirmed as well and will carry a slightly lower cost, somewhere in the area of $5. Stepping back to look at the $2 million in streaming revenues Netflix saw in the first two years in the UAE and its steady up-and-to-the-right growth projections, this region is poised for a tête-à-tête in the streaming video space.

Seeing as this platform is unique in its orientation the advertising world will have to fall in line and learn to create equally unique ads for its users, in terms of demographics, psychographics and visually. Repackaging existing advertising copy as previously mentioned is sure to be off-putting for viewers and be the equivalent of taking your hard fought for ad dollars and feeding them into a paper shredder. Ever since Quibi surfaced as but a wee blip on our radar, we have been diving deep to understand the nuances of platforms that it closely resembles to provide clients remarkable results even in an emerging swell of this blue ocean.

One exciting aspect of the looming platform that makes it so attractive to creators, producers and directors is the ownership of the content over its lifetime. Quibi have agreed to release the intellectual property back to the directors, writers and producers after a period essentially allowing them to use the platform to see which ideas resonate with viewers and produce longer form extensions for future use on any platform of their choosing. Win, win. No doubt they are now busy with all be technical inner workings of the platform and building a robust content catalog a release date for the end of the year has been set, but I’m sure there will be plenty of progressively mainstream updates on Quibi throughout 2019. At this point, it’s a very promising and refreshing take on the vertical format that is available to so many worldwide.