You heard about Quibi, but did you try it?

SWAN of the Week, Number 146
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“Quibi is like if the gas station TV cost money.”


Screen time is all the time right now.

TV viewing is up. Streaming is up. Social network time is up.

So it would seem like the perfect time to launch Quibi, the nearly $2 billion-funded, mobile-only, Netflix-style app featuring six to 10-minute shows and series.

Quibi, short for “quick bites,” has been inundating the world with ads and teasers for months and months now. And it finally launched this week.

Except I downloaded it and promptly forgot about it.

Not a single one of my friends texted or posted about it this week. My feeds didn’t have a single mention about the platform or its shows. I finally remembered I had it on Wednesday and forced myself to purchase (you have to agree to payment post-trial before trying) and watch some episodes.

The mobile-first gimmick here is that all content is short-form and formatted for both vertical and horizonal screen flips. It’s truly a one-trick pony, and after the first few attempts to see how it works, you pretty much just watch horizontally like a normal show.

Even the ads are dynamic to how you hold your phone. I got served an ad for Lays potato chips that definitely let me flip my phone, and but I’m not sure it was very well targeted.

On Quibi, ads can’t be skipped, similar to Hulu or Pluto. But unlike Instagram and Facebook, they can’t be shared either. I got a hilarious ad for Old El Paso using YouTuber Parry Gripp’s “Raining Tacos,” but it wasn’t shareable or findable after it ran. Bummer!

The discovery UX for the initial slate of shows is pretty terrible. Unlike Hulu, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, IGTV, etc., there doesn’t seem to be any deep categorization, algorithms, recommendation, or discoverability features. Users get overwhelmed easily when there’s too much to watch. Tell us what content we will like!

From my experience, the content itself is… okay.

The Punk’d reboot with Chance the Rapper was agonizing and unfinishable. The Most Dangerous Game series was the slowest 7 minutes of television I’ve ever watched. Made it through two full episodes – dropping obvious foreshadowing hints in agonizing detail like a primetime TV drama – before giving up. The Report by NBC News is Snapchat-style news broadcast news, but you can’t share them or stream outside the platform to non-paying users, which seems strange for news.

But the Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson comedy show Flipped is fantastic. It’s almost like Funny or Die knows a thing or two about making short form, mobile-first content that pops. None of the rest of the programming doesn’t appeal to me, which either means I’m lame or Quibi’s recommendation engine and discovery is severely lacking. Probably both.  

I’m generally a fan of innovation in mobile, content and advertising. I’m also a huge social-sharer and want to screenshot, share and chat about entertainment content. Not being able to screenshot or record content seems extremely counterintuitive for the way content spreads today (h/t @ira).

On first review, Quibi is a social-less mobile-first content viewing experience, which seems very strange for a product launched in 2020. The launch content isn’t great, and I kept finding myself wanting to jump out of the shows to multitask or do anything than hang out inside Quibi. It’s reminiscent to the feeling you get sampling AppleTV, which also has a terrible user experience (muddling primary content with subscription and rentals) and yawn-worthy content. In fact, I forgot I had AppleTV completely.

Instead, I’m back to scrolling TikTok for hours each night, texting the best short-form content to friends, and enjoying its discovery algorithm that serves me content it knows I’ll love.

TikTok: 1.
Quibi: 0.

But Quibi does have almost $2 billion in investment, loads of famous directors in the queue, and a long runway to work out some of these mobile bugs.

You may not have tried Quibi yet, but you will be hearing more about it for quite a while.

See you on the internet!

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