Photo from Quibi. Fair Use.
Elbowing its way into a crowded streaming landscape, Quibi (short for “quick bite”) believes we want more. The new platform, which debuted this month, is defined by its limitations. All content runs 10 minutes or less. Shows can only be viewed on mobile devices. Users are even unable to take screenshots while on the app.
These attributes are perplexing, but perhaps a short content streaming service is Hollywood’s sensible response to the public’s ever-shortening attention spans. Plus, limitations can drive creativity. But does the experiment deliver something fresh?
The answer is a resounding “kinda.” Quibi’s structure feels different from traditional streaming services, but this is not always for the best. Many of the shows feel like they’re working hard to make sense. “Dishmantled,” a show where chefs get sprayed with food and make a dish based on what they think they got sprayed with, is amusing, but the execution feels way too formal for its premise. “Thanks A Million” has celebrities give away $100,000 on the condition that the recipient gives away $50,000 to someone else. The stories are touching, but they’re basically glorified PR. Even “Chrissy’s Court,” with a dynamic personality like Chrissy Teigen at the center, comes across as awkward and unnecessary.
Despite these missteps, a few Quibi shows nail it. The standout docuseries “Shape of Pasta” follows chef Evan Funke as he travels through Italy in search of unique handmade pasta shapes. Each episode focuses on one shape and a local woman who specializes in it, producing fascinating bite-sized stories that are full without being overstuffed.
So while it’s possible to find a gem, Quibi’s offerings are mainly “meh.”
On the one hand, they do the job. They entertain. On the other hand, the idea of charging for content 10 minutes or less is a tad outrageous when there’s so much free entertainment on the Internet. If we want something short and sweet, we can watch an endless stream of Tik Toks. If we want something well-produced, we can head over to the YouTube channels of established publications, like Bon Appétit or i-D. For all its flaws, social media provides more entertainment than we could watch in a hundred quarantines.
Like social media, Quibi makes use of advertising. A subscription to a streaming service can sometimes free us from commercials, but Quibi barely offers that. It’s already hard to stomach the ad-supported version for $4.99 a month and downright laughable to shovel out $7.99 for an ad-free version.
Between social media and streaming giants like Netflix, there’s simply not much room for Quibi right now. If the platform aims to be worthwhile, it needs time to perfect the “quick bites” it’s named for. In the meantime, watch the huge amount of content already offered on other streaming services. Enjoy the fruits of social media. If you’re curious, jump on Quibi’s impressive 90-day free trial for an interesting novelty, but not for much else.