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Quibi: The Evolution of Storytelling

Launching to mixed reviews on April 6, Quibi began with a massive ramp in subscribers, comparable to that of Disney+. Yet, many are questioning if Quibi can succeed in an already saturated market. As the leading emotion and behavior insights platform using AI and machine learning to analyze unstructured open-ended text, Canvs decided to take a look at how consumers are assimilating Quibi. Using consumers’ written dialogue, or Emotional Reactions (ER), we proceeded to gather the evidence of how people feel about Quibi.

Short for “quick bites,” Quibi is nothing less than the evolution of storytelling targeted toward a younger demographic with the design of bringing great stories to an on-the-go audience. Some of Quibi’s differences compared to other streaming platforms are: it’s only available on Android and iOS mobile devices; its 10-minute shows and 10-minute episodic movie chapters; and its investment power, raising $1.75 billion and using it to attract top tier talent such as Chrissy Teigen, Idris Elba, and Steven Spielberg to create content.

But the biggest secret weapon according to Quibi is their patented Turnstyle technology, the first and only for a streaming service. It effectively allows its videos to instantly flip between vertical portrait framing and horizontal landscape framing as the phone moves. The technology is designed to always be “side-loading” some of the other video offscreen to avoid lag time as the viewer switches between orientations. Aside from choosing the desired orientation, turnstyle allows creators to experiment with filmmaking techniques by changing the viewer’s point of view based on the orientation of the mobile device.

However, as a product designed to be viewed on the go and in quick bites, the value proposition has gone down while everyone has been quarantined at home with their television. While there are still many in-between moments during quarantine, these moments are not the same as pre-quarantine. “It’s out of sync,” said Katzenberg. Despite the roughly 3 million downloads, there were only about 1.3 million active users. The numbers have been disappointing, but not regrettable as Katzenberg and his team have pivoted to adjust to the incoming feedback. “There are a whole bunch of things we have now seen in the product that we thought we got mostly right,” he said, “but now that there are hundreds of people on there using it, you go, ‘Uh-oh, we didn’t see that.’” 

The real question centers around the increasingly saturated nature of the streaming market. Netflix, Amazon Video, Disney+, and Apple TV all have their hands in the proverbial cookie jar, with others like HBO Max having launched and Peacock launching in the coming weeks. Katzenberg confidently stated, “The essential thing in having them [Hollywood studios] as our partners was the access to their show running talent and their IP.” It’s the first time Hollywood studios have agreed to create content for a streaming service. Whether it’s a sustainable business model is another matter that only time will tell. Despite the less than anticipated start, Katzenberg remains optimistic as 80% of Quibi viewers complete the episode they are watching. 

Quibi’s fans and dissenters have made strong arguments for their respective points of view. Seeking to shed some light on this debate, Canvs has been analyzing Quibi and the emotional response to its creative content to determine how viewers feel, why they feel that way and what that might mean for the business going forward. Canvs identifies feelings as they occur in language and categorizes them as specific Emotional Reactions (ER). An ER is the Canvs proprietary metric for an explicit written expression of emotion, such as Happy, Sad, Funny, Excited, Crazy, or many more. We developed an unnatural language processing engine, which recognizes slang, acronyms, emojis, misspellings, and subtle nuances such as sarcasm and “shade.”

Canvs analyzed the emotional reactions from each network’s top original content that premiered since April 1st. Unsurprisingly, Netflix’s viewership reactions dwarfed the other shows on the list, so for the purposes of these insights the OTT behemoth was capped at its top five premieres during this time period. Nevertheless, looking below the numbers of the veteran service, Quibi’s Cup of Joe fell right behind Apple TV’s Defending Jacob, Hulu’s Normal People, and Amazon’s Upload, which were their respective number one premieres. 

While it’s clear that Quibi cannot be compared to the Netflix giant, the numbers speak for themselves that Quibi shows can hold their own.

Katzenberg acknowledges that it is not “the avalanche of people they wanted and were going for out of the launch.” Therefore, after listening to Quibi’s freshmen audience feedback, they’ve now added support for both Chromecast and Airplay allowing users the ability to cast the service from mobile phones to their televisions. At this point, there are those, including Katzenberg, who say Quibi’s story is ongoing, while others vote that July could be the beginning of the end for the service. Quibi has quickly attracted millions of people to sign up for the free trial, but there are no assurances in retaining their viewership. The production freeze due to the country’s lingering quarantine status, new competition on the horizon, and a possible depression in the economy suggest Quibi could fail if many people cancel before their first payment as their current funds will only carry them through the fall. With so many variables flipping between viable and volatile within its industry, and so many others out of its control like a change in users’ lifestyles, Quibi’s future will be interesting to watch.