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Revenge Of The TV Nerds

While experts and experience are very much under attack these days, I’m happy to report that while I am sure they are out there, I do not personally know of any analysts or similar media nerds who thought that Quibi was a good idea.

While its founders may blame their less than stellar launch on the fallout from the pandemic, the truth is, it was always a solution to a problem no one seemed to have.

Or, to put it in meme-worthy terms (or circa 2014 meme-worthy terms, to be more exact) “I wish I could pay a monthly subscription to see celebrities in high production value ten minute videos I can only watch on my phone and can’t share.”

Said No One Ever.

The people behind Quibi have been very successful in other, related, endeavors, and as such, there weren’t a whole lot of people shouting “the emperor has no clothes” (or whatever the modern version of that would be) when they announced the service, and major ad agencies all bought millions of dollars worth on inventory on Quibi, because…well, probably because it was easier to sell clients on the famous people behind Quibi than on the “let me ask my kids if they’ve heard of them” people behind platforms like Snap, Twitch and TikTok.

I’ll admit to being one of those taking a “well it doesn’t sound very promising, but we’ll have to wait and see” posture because well, who wants to be That Guy. At least in public.

Though I do remember feeling much better about my skepticism after my friend Jon Watts (another media nerd) told me about a UK study that found that the majority of videos watched on YouTube were of the “how to” variety.

As in how to decorate a birthday cake, how to change the oil in your car, how to apply make-up to make your eyes pop, etc.

Not how to spend millions on production and talent fees for a ten minute mobile phone video that you can watch in profile and landscape modes.

Then there’s the fact that if I had a dollar for every teenager who noted they followed YouTube stars like PewDiePie because “it feels like you’re hanging out with a friend”, I’d be writing this from my private yacht.

All of which left me feeling pretty confident that Quibi was doomed to be a no go. (SEE ALSO: Vessel, Go90)

But who wants to be known as a hater, right? And I held on to the vague hope that they would give up on the only-on-the-phone-and-absolutely-no-sharing thing before launch.

Oh well.

Et Tu, Apple?

While Quibi-bashing has become its own sub-genre and has all sorts of kicking-them-when-they’re-down feels about it, it was the first thing that popped into my mind when I read that Apple seems to have finally realized that a Flix with fewer than 30 original series and movies combined is not going to be anywhere as popular as one with tens of thousands of movies and programs, and that maybe it was time to do something to remedy that.

Now this may sound like a No Shit, Sherlock realization, but apparently TPTB at Apple seriously believed that they didn’t need any library content.

Probably for the same reason they believed that we all wanted laptops with just two USB-C ports and phones that don’t use the same headphone jack input as every other audio-capable device ever made.

Including the aforementioned laptops.

It’s a drum many of us have been banging for a while now—Apple, with its quarter trillion in cash, can easily buy up a whole lot of library content or even a studio or even ViacomCBS. 

And while Apple Stans have insisted that it was a rational decision made on the basis of there being no existing TV content that was worthy of Apple (I have actually heard this argument more or less verbatim), most of us have been baffled at WTF they were thinking and didn’t common sense indicate that being the boutique of streaming services, with 30 carefully curated programming choices strung out like linen jumpsuits in some high end SoHo boutique, was not a very clever idea.

Because, you know, TV–it’s nothing like fashion.

Fast-forward, and it seems maybe Apple isn’t so special after all—Bloomberg is reporting that while 10 million people may have signed up for the $4.99 Apple TV app (presumably because they got a year free when they bought an Apple device) only around half of those downloaders actually bothered to use the app. 

Meanwhile, Disney, which actually bothered to stock up on library content (and not nearly enough according to some viewers) has over 50 million subscribers, most of whom are actually using the app.

And so, as per the aforementioned Bloomberg piece (excellent reporting from Lucas Shaw and Mark Gurman, btw) Apple is now actively shopping for library shows to make their originals feel less lonely.

So that’s today’s rant: sometimes, when all (or almost all) of the people who devote borderline obsessive amounts of time to a particular industry are in agreement on something, it’s because they’re right.

Not merely lacking “vision.”