Wolk’s Week in Review: Quibi goes to YouTube, AMC goes to Pluto

TV[R]EV Week In Review

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.

Wolk's Week In Review

1. Quibi goes to YouTube

Poor hapless Quibi took another stab at getting people to sample the app this week, putting the initial episodes of a few of its shows on YouTube in the hopes that people using the more popular mobile platform will discover them there and sign up for the last days of Quibi’s free 90-day trial.

Since this is my job, I actually went to watch one of the shows, a comedy (I think) called “Dummy.” I watched until one of the main characters told his girlfriend that the sparkly bit she found on his bed was because he had a sex doll. Figuring that tidbit plus the title meant this was the gist of the show, I quickly moved on, wistfully thinking that was two minutes of my life I’d never get back.

Why it matters

Quibi is like the Bill DiBlasio of streaming services: if there’s a chance to make a bad decision, they’ll take it. Launching in the middle of a nationwide lockdown with no way to watch on anything other than a smartphone and zero way to share anything with a friend or family member, betting the house on the notion that people are jonesing to watch shows in both landscape and portrait modes on the regular, underestimating the amount of marketing dollars they’d need to spend to make people aware of the service at a time when several new TV services were launching, not creating a “Welcome to Quibi, let’s get you set up” type video when you first launch the app to walk people through it and help them find shows they might want to watch…

I’ll stop there. Dumping on Quibi has definitely taken on meme status these days, but this latest move seems to be yet another act of desperation. Which is too bad. If Quibi gets its act together, there’s definitely something to be said for a service that has high quality series that can be watched in their entirety in just two hours on a television set. (You know, like a movie.) If you are time-pressed, the idea of adding yet another 12-hour series to your “shows I’m watching” list can be daunting, but two or three hours is easily doable. 

What you need to do about it

If you’re Quibi, take a deep breath. Realize you messed up and see what you can learn from it. Rather than just flailing about, get the cast-to-TV thing going or even just launch a version that works in a browser window so that more than one person at a time can watch. Figure out the binge experience so knuckleheads like me can watch an entire series at once with minimal interruption, make a “Welcome to Quibi” video that plays on launch and then go back out there with a new ad campaign that’s nowhere near as mysterious as your initial campaign and spend a lot of money on it. You’ll probably want to find a few series that look like they could be hits and promote those, too.

If you’re Peacock, you caught a lucky break with this; it made your soft launch look genius.

If you’re Go90 or Vessel, don’t start “I told you so”-ing just yet. Quibi just might figure things out.

2. AMC goes to Pluto

On a brighter note, the AMC network, one of the last independent networks left, is going to stand up a couple of channels on Pluto, the FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV service) owned by ViacomCBS. The channels will feature both AMC library content and targeted commercials.

Why it matters

AMC was one of the first networks to jump on the Netflix bandwagon back when Netflix’s value proposition was that people would watch your back catalog on Netflix and then tune in to catch the current season.

It worked like magic for AMC, helping turn both “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” into hits.

AMC appears to be on to something here, too.

At a time when there are more than 30 million Americans unemployed, cable subscription numbers are likely to drop precipitously. While the industry mantra is that pay TV is one of the last things people cut in hard times, that was before there were so many free TV options available with just a broadband subscription.

My gut is that people will keep their broadband and watch the FASTS, keeping one or two streaming subscriptions.

So if you’re AMC, this is a smart move, because people will be able to find (the key part of the unique channel thing) and watch your shows on Pluto, and then, when times get better, they will seek you out, either via a cable subscription that includes AMC or via a subscription app of some sort. (I’ll assume you’re at least contemplating one.)

What you need to do about it

If you’re AMC, this is a good move and if you have any additional marketing budget, you’ll definitely want to get the word out.

If you’re Pluto, similarly well done, getting non-Viacom content only makes your service look bigger and better.

If you’re one of the other FASTS, this is a good model and there are other networks like AMC out there.

If you’re a new or long-term cord cutter, now you know where to get your AMC fix.