Well-known industry analyst Alan Wolk is publishing his popular Week In Review columns first on FierceVideo every Friday. This means that FierceVideo readers are the first to get all Wolk's insights as they navigate the fast-moving television business.
1. Quibi makes its debut
Quibi, the multi-billion-dollar high-end TV platform with lots of celebrities and lots of ad commitments launched this week at what would seem to be the worst possible time to launch a mobile-only platform that doesn’t play on your TV.
Why it matters
The original plan was that Quibi would be what you watched when you didn't have a whole lot of time. But unfortunately for Quibi, the one thing people have in spades these days is time.
That’s why we (and seemingly most other analysts, reviewers and People With Opinions) were baffled by the fact that the app cannot be played on an actual TV set, either via Apple’s AirPlay or via some other means.
Quibi, as my TV[R]EV colleague John Cassillo astutely pointed out, seems well suited for places like New York and Chicago where people commute via public transportation and might watch on their phones while on the train. (Quibi shows are also downloadable, a big plus given the unreliability of Wi-Fi on mass transit.)
But in places like LA or anywhere else people mostly drive to work? Not so much.
Then there’s the not-on-TV thing, which seems sort of silly, like biting off your nose to spite your face.
YouTube is clearly a mobile platform but if I want to share a video with a bunch of people, it’s easy to swipe it over to a TV.
It’s not clear what Quibi’s deal is with that either. Yes, there are a few shows that make use of both vertical and landscape formatting, but it’s easy enough to say “these won’t work on your TV” than to kill the whole thing completely.
Especially when the whole world is stuck at home in front of the TV. But even when it’s not—given that the TV is now far and away the cheapest screen in the house, it’s logical that viewers would want the option to watch on their TVs, too—one of consumers’ biggest “wants” from the TV Everywhere experience, one that Netflix very successfully delivered on, leading to its early success, was the ability to watch from any device.
So right off, Quibi’s decision not to go that route has everyone’s “Does Not Care About Their Customers” antennae buzzing.
That buzzing gets louder when you look at the interface, which reminded me of Facebook Watch: I had no idea what I was looking at, how anything was organized (e.g., was there a section for “News” or “Comedy”) and why I was being shown a seemingly random array of shows at the start. Like Facebook Watch, Quibi would have benefitted from a brief “Welcome To Quibi” video that explains how the service works.
All is not lost however, as Quibi does have one thing in its favor: those 10-minute episodes, when watched all at once, are about the length of a two-hour movie. And if you’re looking for something that will take up only two hours of your time versus the 12 hours a typical hour-long streaming drama demands, then you might turn to Quibi, which, in this instance, took a page from Netflix and made the bingeing experience viewer-friendly by cutting out lengthy intros and end credits.
But that two-hour viewing session is going to require that the show can be watched on TV.
The other question for Quibi is what is going to happen once all those free 90-day subscriptions are up.
I have not heard much buzz about any Quibi shows yet, though it’s still early. I do know that 90 days of 10 minute shows is going to go by really quickly, especially if you’re stuck at home, and so there will be an even bigger question as to how many people will actually start paying once it’s no longer free and all of the on-TV Flixes have launched.
What you need to do about it
If you’re Quibi, you need to do two things:
1. Figure out a way for people to use AirPlay or something similar to watch on a TV. The situation is what it is now, it will be like this for a while and this is a no-brainer that is going to bite Quibi in the ass if it doesn’t fix it.
2. Figure out your interface so that people in your 25-45 target market can find shows they want to watch and get an overall sense of what is on the app. You might even want to email them all a “How To Get The Most Out Of Quibi” video that explains everything they’re not figuring out for themselves.
If you’re YouTube, Snap, TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, right now it doesn’t look like you have all that much to worry about. You are going after different audiences and have very different content strategies. That said, it would not hurt to point out all Quibi’s initial failings to advertisers.
In a helpful and well-meaning fashion.
2. Disney+ has 50 million paid subscribers
If Quibi launched at the worst possible time, Disney’s European and Indian expansion for Disney+ happened at the best possible time.
Kids are home, people are looking for something new to watch, the service is well-priced and Disney has incredible name recognition.
Why it matters
Disney+ has exceeded expectations, adding 22 million new subscribers over the past two months. That is way ahead of the company’s own forecasts, which had them hitting somewhere between 60 and 90 million global subs by the end of 2024.
There’s also the case of the Indian numbers.
It seems that Hotstar, the very popular Indian streaming service Disney acquired in the Fox deal, grandfathered in most all of its customers, including AVOD customers who can now access Disney content (the service is being billed as “Hotstar/Disney”) and even the top Wall Street analysts were confused about how those numbers were actually being counted.
That said, Disney+ seems to be performing way ahead of expectations regardless, and the key question will be whether those subscribers stick around post-quarantine and post-HBO, Peacock and VCBS launch, and how much churn Disney will encounter.
What you need to do about it
If you’re Disney, you want to give people a reason to remain subscribers. That means more shows people want to watch that aren’t “The Mandalorian,” a better interface (lots of griping about that) and maybe a Hulu + Live TV-ESPN+-Disney+ bundle. (I know I would subscribe.)
If you’re HBO Max and Peacock—if it is possible, you’ll want to roll out your apps sooner than later to take advantage of that quarantine bump too. Especially because post-quarantine, there’s not going to be a lot of heart for staying home and watching TV. Or staying home and doing anything, for that matter.
If you’re a consumer, sit back and get your popcorn. Not that most of you have any choice but to do so right now, but the streaming wars are definitely heating up.
And if you are writing about the television industry, please stop using the phrase “Netflix killer.” There will be no “Netflix killer.” There’s enough room for all these new services to succeed.