There's a new streaming service launching on Monday with an odd name and an equally peculiar business model, but it's hard to dismiss Quibi. Quibi -- short for "quick bites" -- is a premium service for short-form content. It has big executives and even bigger stars, but this platform is gunning for the smallest of your screens.
Quibi is a mobile-first platform, and it's only currently available for iOS and Android devices. The content is optimized so it formats correctly whether your smartphone or tablet is held in portrait or landscape mode. It's available as a 90-day free trial for anyone signing up this month, but after that, we're talking about a premium offering starting at $4.99 a month. The ad-free version will set you back $7.99 a month.
Quibi is run by former Disney (DIS 3.47%) executives Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, and investors in Netflix (NFLX 9.20%), Roku (ROKU 3.83%), and Disney+ parent Disney need to pay attention to what the new platform means for their positions.
It's all about the content
It doesn't matter that Quibi is a silly name. You probably thought the same thing about Roku, Disney's Hulu, and other whimsical, made-up monikers that are now household names. Quibi sprang for a Super Bowl ad two months ago. It has lined up influential celebrities including Chrissy Teigen, Sam Raimi, and Sophie Turner to crank out shows and movies that will be doled out in bite-sized installments.
The impact on Roku is instant. Quibi isn't available on any streaming hub. It's only available through Android and iOS app stores to stream on mobile devices. No one is going to ditch Roku unless that person is ready to live life streaming exclusively on their smartphone or tablet, but it will mean that the fast-growing hub that prides itself on access to thousands of services won't be able to scratch the Quibi itch when any of its content goes viral.
Netflix and Disney+ also can't be asleep at the wheel. The two darlings of the premium streaming space will have competition for mindshare in the coming weeks. The moment Quibi scores its first hit along the lines of Disney+ with The Mandalorian, or more recently, Netflix with Tiger King -- the leading service's most-watched show over the past two weeks -- the concern will be if folks will unsubscribe to either service to send more of their dollars Quibi's way.
Roku, Netflix, and Disney will be just fine. Disney+ wasn't going to be the hot rookie forever, and Netflix proves that you can wrestle back eyeballs after a rival service scores a mainstream hit. Roku will also be OK. The way homebound folks are streaming right now, it's fair to say that some time on their smaller devices streaming Quibi isn't going to eat into the roughly 4 billion hours a month of content Roku is dishing out.
There won't be just one winner in the streaming entertainment space, especially now, when the coronavirus crisis has nearly everyone at home hungry for the escapism that's possible with digital content. Quibi is going to turn heads, but those same heads will also continue to stream Netflix and Disney+, often on platforms running Roku's operating system.