Launched Monday on a smartphone near you, Quibi is a streaming service with a twist. A lot of them, in fact, each about seven minutes long.
Yes, much-hyped Quibi is finally here but what exactly is a "Quibi?" (The name comes from "quick" + "bite")? Honchos Meg Whitman (former eBay chief and Cold Spring Harbor native) and Jeffrey Katzenberg (DreamWorks co-founder) have enlisted hundreds of showrunners and celebrities to create series for a platform that by fall will have 175 mini-shows, movies, documentaries and news/information programs. Quibi is for smartphones only and it's free the first three months, then $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 without.
If Netflix is engineered for horizontal bingeing, Quibi is designed for vertical: You flip past shows like beer sips at a tasting event, pausing only when the spirit, or sip, moves you. Judgments are either instant or suspended — and it shouldn't take you seven minutes to suspend that judgment either.
Quibi offered 24 of Monday's launches for review. Here are six that intrigued me:
"I Promise'' A year (2018) inside Akron, Ohio-based I Promise School where kids are taught to overcome day-to-day challenges in a nurturing environment, with lots of high-fives, hugs, and — if they're lucky — a LeBron James sighting because King James produced this.
"Most Dangerous Game" One of Quibi's so-called "movies-in-chapters" stars Liam Hemsworth as a guy dying from cancer who accepts a challenge from another guy (Christoph Waltz) to be hunted, thus earning a million bucks for his family. Sure — ridiculous — but at least it looks good and so do those leads.
"You Ain't Got These" Lena Waithe-hosted unscripted about the sneaker culture where "if people want to feel like gods, they put on a pair of kicks." Unclear whether this is a long (or short) commercial for Nike, but this is an idea with real legs.
"Run This City" Docuseries about indicted Falls River, Mass., Mayor Jasiel Correia, who just may be Quibi's own Joe Exotic. Or maybe not. But this easily intrigues.
"Survive" Based on the 2012 YA novel by Alex Morel, with Sophie Turner and Corey Hawkins as the only survivors of a plane crash, this opens dark — very dark (her character is suicidal) — but "Survive" is far and away the most compelling Quibi launch.
"Memory Hole" Will Arnett hosts a show about pop culture events we have conveniently forgotten, or (as he explains) this is about "pop culture history so painful that no light can escape it." The light will escape here. Flat out winner, and easy best of Monday's show-dump.
TALKING WITH QUIBI'S MEG WHITMAN
Meg Whitman, 63, built eBay in the aughts, ran Hewlett-Packard through most of the teens, then — for something entirely different — became Employee No. 1 of Quibi in 2018.
We spoke recently and here's the edited — or Quibi-sized — version of our chat:
Ever get back to Long Island?
I do. My son and daughter-in-law live in Cold Spring Harbor.
What are your personal Quibi faves so far?
Favorite movie-in-chapters is "Survive," favorite documentary is 'I Promise,' and favorite Daily Essential [Quibi's umbrella name for the vast amount of news/informational content it will eventually launch, including a daily NBC News show] which stars Rachel Hollis [who's] sort of the Tony Robbins of millennial moms
Gen Z viewers are used to getting online content for free, so how will you make money?
A combination of advertising and subscription. The ad load is very light — two minutes per hour — and the ads are very high quality. We've sold out the first year.
Why so many boldface names in the shows?
Our belief was that for a new service with a name no one's heard of, we needed celebrity talent that could help us promote this when we launched. We went out and found the best stories we could and some of that talent brought us those stories.
Please don't take this the wrong way, but it seems like you are just throwing a lot of spaghetti strands on to the wall to see what sticks. How will you know what will?
It'll be about the data. We'll know how many are watching, what the most popular shows are, and — as always — there will be surprises here. But we tried to have something for a broad range of viewers." [Quibi says it's directed at 18-to-44 -year-olds.]
With the current crisis, did you think of delaying the launch?
Yes, we did think of it but this is cloud-based [so] engineers don't have to be in some operations center. [Also] our company is an entertainment one and we thought it could bring a few laughs to people at this time. So why not? We thought it was the right thing to do.