Small Screen is Going Big Time

The Small Screen is Going Big Time

Have you ever noticed, when you’re on a flight, how many people are watching their phones? OK, some are watching their tablets. But, the point is that passengers are increasingly Bringing Their Own Entertainment: movies, TV shows, video games, even e- and Audible-books. And, soon, you’ll be able to watch several movies, even on flights between SFO and LAX.

That’s because Hollywood legend, Jeffrey Katzenberg (co-founder of Dreamworks and former CEO of DreamWorks Animation), has teamed up with tech legend, Meg Whitman (former CEO of both eBay and Hewlett Packard), to form Quibi – which stands for “quick bites.” Quibi’s not just another tech startup: they’ve already raised one billion dollars, and have commitments from just about every A-list producer, director, writer, and talent to fill your mobile phone with “snackable” movies averaging 6-1/2 minutes in length.

6-1/2 Minute Movies

It turns out 6-1/2 minutes is the average length of time Millennials and Gen-Zers spend on their phones in a typical session. So coupling phones – that double as a movie theatre in your pocket – with $100,000-a-minute production-value shorts designed to fit my 5-3/4” Pixel, instead of a 50-foot movie screen, is a compelling proposition.

Of course, “shorts” are not new. For years, the Academy of Motion Pictures has been awarding Oscars to short films in three categories – documentary, live-action, and animated. But to qualify for an Oscar, the “short” can be up to 40 minutes long (including all the credits). And, having sat through day-long “DocuDay” all-documentary-nominee-marathons for over 15 years, trust me on this, sometimes even the best shorts at 40 minutes simply seem too long.

And, in fairness, Quibi’s 6-1/2 minute movies will be “serialized,” like most serialized TV shows, with main story arcs that span an entire season or even the series itself. So, once you watch the first installment of #FreeRayshawn, for example, you’ll want to get past the cliffhangers, and see all 16 episodes of this Laurence Fishburne and Stephan James police-hostage drama.

Movies Designed for the Small Screen

And what will make these productions all that different from watching a movie on your phone? Well, as someone who has a yellowing degree in Film & Television, you design your production for your format. For example, you can’t turn a 50-foot movie screen – for even your phone playing a film designed for the large screen – on its side, without turning your head to view it. But with Quibi’s mobile-only format, it will support both horizontal and vertical video, and let users switch between the two. Also, because you’ll be playing Quibi’s content through an app that knows where you are, and what time it is there, you can only watch Steven Spielberg’s spooky After Dark show, once it’s after dark where you are.

MediaTech Aiming to Disrupt the Entertainment Industry

And that’s why this is a tech story, because Quibi is the latest mediatech company that aims to disrupt the entertainment industry. And, it meets Meg Whitman’s 4-point checklist for a successful venture, as reported in the HBS Alumni Bulletin:

1) Is it based on an existing trend with a big market? (2.7 billion people have smartphones they just can’t put down)

2) Is the customer behavior already there? (we’re now used to making online purchases – Quibi’s will be $4.99 a month with ads, or $7.99 without ads)

3) Is there a competitive advantage that will allow the company to stand out over the long term? (in its first year, the Quibi app plans to have 7,000 videos – from scripted series and movies, to reality TV, news and special interest shows; plus they already have over a million dollars in ad buys committed from the likes of Google and P&G). And,

4) Does the idea create value and allow you to do something that you couldn’t before? (As Meg summed up: this one checked all my boxes)

To see if it checks your boxes, you just need to wait for Quibi’s April 6, 2020 U.S. launch date.

by Mimi Grant, President, Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization – Round Tables and Events for CEOs of Technology and Healthcare Companies