Will Quibi Platform Spawn New Ad Formats?
Jeffrey Katzenberg (l) and Meg Whitman of Quibi speak at the Produced By Conference at Warner Bros. Studios on Saturday, June 8, 2019, in Burbank, California. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/Invision for Producers Guild of America /AP Images)
Mobile streaming venture from Jeffrey Katzenberg, Meg Whitman seeks sponsors to reach on-the-go consumers
  • BURBANK, Calif.
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Quibi, a start-up that stands for “quick bites” of video expressly designed for consumption by on-the-go folks via their smartphones, may carry implications for the advertising community, spawning new sponsored message forms. At least that’s part of the vision shared by Quibi CEO Meg Whitman who along with Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder and managing partner of Wndr Co., founder/chairman of the board for Quibi, were featured speakers at this past weekend’s Produced By Conference presented by the Producers Guild of America on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank.

Katzenberg has a high-profile entertainment industry pedigree which includes his work at Disney and then the founding of DreamWorks while Whitman’s entrepreneurial/technical mettle has been demonstrated at eBay and Hewlett-Packard.

Quibi is a platform, not a studio. The premium short-form mobile streaming service is scheduled to roll out in April 2020, with plans to publish 25 pieces of content daily. Some 7,000 pieces of short-form content will be released in Quibi’s first year. The company intends to tell two to two-and-a-half-hour stories in chapter increments of 7 to 10 minutes each. There will also be chapter installments for overall shorter content, and other tailor-made short-format programming.

The videos will be made for people’s limited downtime during the course of a busy day--Whitman said while waiting in line at Starbucks or at a doctor’s office, and during various other junctures. The target demographic is people 25 to 35 years of age--but that range could be widened seven years on either side, from 18 to 44. A monthly consumer subscriber fee of $4.99 has been set (with pre-roll ads). The service will also be available ad-free for $7.99 a month.

Katzenberg is tapping into leading filmmakers to make custom content suited for incremental chapters. He noted that cutting up existing films or TV shows to fit into the format doesn’t work. A special pacing is needed to make the viewership experience enjoyable. Leading content creators are eager to explore the format, continued Katzenberg who cited for example the likes of Antoine Fuqua and Steven Soderbergh. Fuqua is working on a two-and-a-half hour piece consisting of 15 chapters, with one chapter to be released on a daily basis. Katzenberg said that Quibi paid out $15 million for the Fuqua project. Meanwhile Soderbergh is executive producing a show to Quibi specifications.

The sponsor-supported component of the business model calls for pre-roll ads ranging from six to 15 seconds. Brands for example could tell a 60-second story in six 10-second segments. Quibi users can follow the brand stories before viewing their selected videos. 

Whitman said that like the Quibi programming itself, brand stories can be told in chapters, with viewers having the option to “tap to binge,” seeing all the sponsor chapters at once. Each chapter would have to work as a stand-alone piece yet collectively come together effectively, for instance, as a minute-long film. Whitman also sees the potential for the platform to showcase longer form sponsor fare, citing as an example work like the heartwarming Elton John Xmas ad for John Lewis from adam&eveDDB, London, that simply delivers the message, “Some gifts are more than just a gift.” Whitman observed that longer stories like this conveying brand values--sans any hard sell--would be viable sponsor content on Quibi, reaching a coveted demographic.

Whitman said that Quibi takes full advantage of the mobile dynamic which has put “a TV in everyone’s pocket.” Beyond the entertainment content prospects for that pocket TV, Quibi will also give advertisers, contended Whitman, a new way to tell their stories.

Quibi has thus far raised $1 billion, which includes investors from throughout the Hollywood community, and expects to secure another $500 million in funding in the fall or by next spring.


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