The news hit today and stunned the entire social media landscape. It seemed that Zac Efron, known mostly for High School Musical and the Neighbors movies, almost died in Papua New Guinea filming his ironically-named Quibi show Killing Zac Efron.
Thankfully, per Zac’s own Instagram page, the truth came out. Sure he got sick, but he was only sick momentarily, if maybe a few long days of feeling under the weather, but miraculously came out of it feeling stronger, healthier and ready to finish his amazing new series for upstart streaming service Quibi.
But whether or not Zac Efron died, isn’t the story. The story is, when will fledgling new streaming service Quibi, die it’s own premature death?
Well, first off. What the hell is Quibi?
According to the Dictionary, or the Quibi website, it’s a noun. And it means “quick bites; brief” and “a tech and entertainment start-up in Hollywood. Talk to anyone in Tinsel Town and they’ll tell you that Quibi is dropping millions of dollars all over town, signing up talent to make TV series, movies and other creative pieces of content all with one very specific guideline.
It’s gotta be brief. Short. Mini.
Now, first things first. Quibi has got a few big things going for it. One, is namely Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, one third of Dreamworks SKG and the brain behind so many of the big successes at Disney. He’s a towering figure in the Entertainment Business and if he’s involved in something, clearly there’s some intelligence behind the plan. Quibi has also marshaled a key group of leaders including eBay’s Meg Whitman as CEO and Doug Herzog (previously from Comedy Central) as one of the key Content Executives driving the charge. They’ve staffed quickly, raised billions of dollars, and put together an infrastructure that will launch to consumers late in 2020.
But what’s their differentiator?
Great content. But short.
The devil’s advocate could ask what Netflix’s differentiator is. And all anyone could say is that they’ve got billions and they’re just…well, making content. One could ask about Amazon Prime, and get a similar answer but with the added benefit of free shipping and the lowest priced Keurig pods around. The advocate we speak of could ask this question of Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and so on and so forth. And the answer would simply be about install base, device ecosystem, and yes…content.
So why does everyone in the space like to bag on Quibi’s short-content angle, including me?
Because it seems like a gimmick. Like movie theaters that spray scented mists towards you to match what’s happening on screen. Like rumble chairs people sit in while playing racing games. Like a Spielberg-produced horror series that you can only watch when it’s dark out.
Okay, another gimmicky thing from Quibi.
All that to say, if Quibi has the content and the talent; something they’re clearly spending billions of dollars on (in Hollywood, the joke is that everyone has a Quibi series), then the length of content or the time in which you can be allowed to watch said content, should matter. It shouldn’t be the focus. It clearly shouldn’t be the marketing ploy. Because no one is going to join a service because the content can be watched in less than ten minutes. They’re going to watch the content because…wait for it…
The content is good.
Content is king. Audiences have no idea what movie studio makes the movies they see. They don’t know that Joker was made by Warner Bros.. They don’t know what channel The Big Bang Theory was on. They hear about shows and movies and they seek them out wherever they may be. And rarely even remember from where they came. Because it is the content that drives engagement, and the engagement that drives success.
So what does that mean for Quibi’s future? How long do we think Quibi can survive in a world of streaming competitors? Will Zac Efron survive 2020 without dying on the set of his short series for the big Quibi, itself?
No one truly knows. Aside from the psychics and the Hollywood Nostradamai, only the future will be able to show us which of the competitors will last. Only then will we know if it was the content that made the difference, or something completely different altogether.
But if we’re making bets…we’d put a hundie down on one fact in particular. No one’s gonna win because of the length of their content. No one’s gonna win because their show was ten minutes versus thirty. Even Hollywood Nostramai, Randy Newman knew that when he said (loosely translated): short content’s got nobody…nobody to love.
It’s a reach, but the theme remains true to form.
Especially when the form is short.