Quibi streaming service launches

Quibi streaming service launches

Dean Robbins, Allegheny Campus staff

On April 6th, a new streaming service called Quibi launched. I am not sure if anyone noticed. Quibi is an abbreviation for “quick bites”. Episodes are all under ten minutes. They are perfect for the toilet, a short drive (in the passenger seat), and any other break. Shows are divided into three categories: Movies in Chapters, Unscripted, and Documentary. There is one major catch: the service is only available on your phone. Having used the service, that makes sense. These shows are designed for the format. In fact, one of the biggest “selling points” of the service is that all of the shows are formatted for both portrait and landscape modes. There are literally two different versions of every show. The service costs $4.99 per month with ads or $7.99 per month without ads. I went with the no-ad version as I would much rather pay $2.99 extra to not have to sit through ads. With ads, it’s just fancy YouTube. So, what are the launch shows, are they good, and is the service worth the cost? Let’s find out:

All reviews are based on just the first episode. Three episodes were available at launch. Reviews are based on a three-point scale: Skip, Pilot, and Binge. Skip means it is not worth watching. Pilot means it is worth watching the pilot and seeing if it is for you. Binge means it is a good show that is worthy of a season binge. 

Movies In Chapters

All of the current Movies In Chapters release new episodes every weekday until their conclusion. 

Survive: Survive, starring Sophie Turner and Corey Hawkins, follows two people stranded after they are the only survivors of a plane crash. The first episode is mostly set-up for Turner’s character. It was not what I expected. The story intrigues me. It’s nothing new but it can be done very well. The writing is definitely a little questionable. Not bad so far. Binge

Most Dangerous Game: This show is only the second adaptation of the 1924 short story The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell—this year. The first was The Hunt (2020). Many films, books, and series are also inspired by the story. The Hunger Games (2012) is heavily influenced by it. This adaptation stars Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz. The pilot, like Survive, is set-up. And it promises what could be an enjoyable and action-packed adaptation. Christoph Waltz is great in everything and Hemsworth is likable. But, it is too early to tell exactly how good this is going to be. The first episode is very simple. Pilot

Flipped: This comedy series, starring Will Forte and Kaitlin Olson, follows a couple who decide to get into the home-flipping business. Forte’s brand of comedy is not for my tastes. I never got into shows like The Last Man of Earth. But, Flipped had me laughing quite a few times. The comedy definitely feels a little strained and could use better writing (for dialogue; the jokes are fine). However, I can see this becoming a fun series. Binge

When the Streetlights Go On: The best of Quibi’s four launch “movie in chapters” is a murder mystery set in a midwestern suburb in 1995. The pilot episode was fantastic and really gets you hooked. I won’t spoil it but it gets pretty wild. Oddly enough, this seems to be the least-promoted “movie in chapters”. It also has the best cast (Chosen Jacobs, Mark Duplass, Queen Latifah, and more) so I am not sure why Quibi isn’t promoting it more. Binge

Unscripted and Documentaries

New episodes of these shows release every weekday until the conclusion of their seasons. 

Punk’d: Quibi has revived the classic MTV series, now hosted by Chance the Rapper. The series follows Chance pranking other celebrities. The episode gets into the prank rather quickly. The pilot features one involving musician Megan Thee Stallion and a gorilla. It definitely got me laughing. Given the short runtime, I would definitely watch more. Binge

Chrissy’s Court: This show can be summed up as Bizarro-world Judge Judy. Here, “small claims” cases are presided over by Judge Chrissy Teigen. The show description says the decisions are legally binding. Sure. I’ll believe that. It doesn’t matter because the show is not particularly funny or enjoyable. However, I could see it being enjoyable with the right case. Pilot

Fierce Queens: Because new streaming services are legally required to have a show featuring Reese Witherspoon, Quibi has Fierce Queens. Witherspoon hosts a nature documentary about the feminist role models of the animal kingdom. The pilot episode is about cheetahs. If the words Reese Witherspoon-hosted feminist nature documentary sound good to you, this is the show you were born to watch. Even then, Witherspoon’s unenthusiastic narration and the thin (even for eight minutes) subject matter might turn you off. Also, this show doesn’t really work in portrait mode. Skip.

I Promise: This docu series follows the public school LeBron James started in his hometown of Akron, Ohio and its students.  It’s a great project but I am unsure how this will keep you engaged after several episodes. The pilot is just set-up. Will future episodes follow students through their semester? Is that an invasion of privacy? We will find out. Pilot

Dishmantled: Quibi’s cooking show, hosted by Titus Burgess, may be the stupidest concept ever put to screen. The show follows two contestants who are shot at with a shotgun blast of food and must determine what the ingredients are before trying to make the dish they were shot with. It’s great and perfect for Quibi’s short format. It’s literally a shotgun blast of cooking competition. Binge

Thanks a Million: This heart-warming show sees a celebrity gives $100,000 to a deserving fan who must give $50,000 to another person who must give $25,000 to another. This “chain of giving” show began with Jennifer Lopez. It doesn’t fail to choke you up a little and it’s enjoyable to watch as the money goes down the chain. And the short format works perfectly as it’s not quite compelling enough for a full TV-length show. Binge

The Sauce: Popular singer Usher has enlisted two of his friends Ayo and Teo to find the best dance crews in the country. Every episode will feature a competition between two crews with an overarching tournament-style system culminating in an eventual competition in front of Usher himself. This show lives on the incredible talents of the crews. It’s a bite-size portion of high-energy dancing. Binge

Murder House Flip: Like the PBS children’s show Dinosaur Train, the creators of Murder House Flip’s pitch must have been to combine two of the most popular TV genres into one: crime and house flipping. It’s an absurd premise but it surprisingly works very well. Murder House Flip gives a little dose of both gruesome murder and home renovation. What more could you ask for? Binge

The Shape of Pasta: This food/travel series follows L.A. chef Evan Funke as he travels through Italy preserving dying forms of pasta. As a fan of niche culture (which this service has plenty of) and someone of Italian heritage, I really enjoyed this show. It takes a broader subject (Italian) and focuses it onto something small—bite-sized, which is pasta. I think this is the space Quibi can live in. Binge

Memory Hole: Cult favorite comedian Will Arnett hosts this strange quasi-reaction show about “obscure pop culture”. It’s okay and feels like something from the early 2000s. Arnett is less funny and more dad-jokes. Skip

You Ain’t Got These: Another show about a niche culture is You Ain’t Got These, hosted by Emmy-Award winning writer Lena Waithe. The show explores the ins and outs of sneaker culture. This is a good show but it feels like something I could easily find on YouTube or Snapchat. It’s definitely not a bad show but it doesn’t stick out as something uniquely Quibi like The Shape of Pasta. Pilot

Singled Out: Singled Out is another reboot of a classic MTV show. The series, now hosted by Keke Palmer, is essentially The Bachelor meets a game show. A group of bachelors and bachelors compete for a date with the show’s main contestant. This is a show, unlike Punk’d, that really needs a longer runtime. It all feels a little too rushed and chaotic. Sure, that adds to the fun but I wanted a little more substance. Plus, the games felt too all-over-the-place and I don’t have a sense of the show’s usual routine yet. Skip.

SKRRT with Offset: Rapper Offset hosts this show about cars. In the pilot, he tests out a $500,000 civilian “tank”. It’s enjoyable but like You Ain’t Got These, there’s nothing special about it. The second episode will show Offset visiting Jay Leno’s massive car collection. But why don’t I just watch Jay Leno’s Garage which is a free show on YouTube? Skip

Gone Mental with Lior: “Mentalist” Lior puts himself and a variety of celebrities through a series of challenges testing Lior’s mind-reading abilities. This is easily my least favorite show on Quibi. The pilot episode saw Lior and Rob Gronkowski face off. It’s hokey, boring, and feels like something that could easily be on YouTube, Snapchat, or Facebook Watch. Skip

Nightgowns: This series follows RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour and her acclaimed drag show Nightgowns. Velour is a very interesting person and reminded me a lot of Andy Warhol. Every episode ends with a drag performance. The pilot’s—set to a Stevie Nicks song—was quite good. My only feedback is that the show is just a tad too long. The pilot was about nine minutes and I think it would do better with 6.5-7.5 minutes. Binge

Prodigy: Soccer player Megan Rapinoe presents (in a very small appearance) a series on up-and-coming athletes. The pilot follows Jalen Green, a very committed high school basketball player. The show is well-shot and edited. I am not a big basketball fan but the show made me care about Green’s journey. Binge

Gayme Show!: Gayme Show! is based on a live show by hosts Matt Rogers and Dave Mizzoni. Every episode, two straight men engage in a competition to find out who is gayer. The premise is solid but the execution leaves much to be desired. It feels too much like a live performance, giving it an overall cheap atmosphere. And the games themselves are a little too random. It would be better with a clearer format. Right now, it’s just a little too chaotic. Skip

Nikki Fre$h: Paris Hilton’s (former) best friend Nicole Richie stars in this semi-scripted series about Richie playing a trap rapper named Nikki Fre$h. It was fun watching Richie propose increasingly stupid ideas but I am a little unsure how it will sustain episode after episode. But, I would definitely watch 6 or so minutes of Richie testing out stupid ideas. Pilot

&Music: Every episode of &Music follows an art form in conjunction with music. The first episode dwells on the use of light and effects alongside live music. Like Prodigy, it looks good and is interesting. Binge

Run This City: This docu series follows disgraced mayor Jasiel Correira, who was one of the youngest mayors in the US. 

Daily Essentials

New episodes of all the Daily Essentials are planned to release every weekday (with a few also airing on weekends). 

Around the World by BBC NEWS: This news digest from BBC News is quick and easily processable. The pilot episode follows a few major stories with some interludes about smaller stories and little facts.  The format reminded me of recent Nintendo Directs, which is not a bad thing. And Around the World has minimal commentary and opinion. It’s pure news. This is not a bad way to get your daily news. Binge.

Sexology with Shan: This daily show gives relationship, dating, and sex advice. Host Shan Boodram guides a panel through discussion on different topics. It’s definitely informative but not for me, personally. The pilot is about dating apps like Tinder and how to make a great profile. I legally cannot use Tinder so… Pilot

Last Night’s Late Night: Television may have finally jumped the shark with Last Night’s Late Night. This show, from Entertainment Weekly, is a daily recap of the previous night’s late night TV shows. Do you want to enjoy late night TV without actually either watching it or watching clips of it on YouTube? This is the show for you. It’s frivolous and was already outdated as I had already heard about everything covered a few hours earlier. Skip

Pulso News by Telemundo: This is a news show geared toward English-speaking Latinx audiences. The pilot episode, like almost every other daily essential, covers the coronavirus. This news show doesn’t offer a lot that Around the World or other shows don’t offer. It’s really about the audience. Pilot

for_the Cultura by Telemundo: This show is a news digest centered on Latinx pop culture. I am not the intended audience for this show and it’s not for me. That’s okay. Pilot

Morning Report by NBC News: NBC News’ Morning Report on Quibi is a lot like BBC News’ Around the World. The design is better but I prefer Around the World. Pilot

Evening Report by NBC News: NBC News’ Evening Report seems to go more in-depth on a specific topic than the Morning Report. But YouTube (and the NBC News channel) offer content just as good as this if not better. Skip

Pop5 by iHeartRadio: iHeartRadio presents this daily pop music news show. I am not a fan of most pop music so it doesn’t appeal to me. But like some other daily essentials, this is for a specific audience. And that audience isn’t me and I am okay with that. It’s well-made and offers content that is hard to find outside of Quibi. Pilot

Speedrun by Polygon: As a rabid reader of the gaming news site Polygon, I was excited to hear they had a daily news show on Quibi. However, I don’t see myself watching it again—for two reasons. I am already so up-to-date on gaming news that everything in this show was redundant for me. The episode focused on the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake, of which I had already read reviews, played the demo, and listened to way too much commentary on it. The show also gets into gaming history. And for the second reason, there is SO MUCH high-quality gaming history content on YouTube for any length of time that greatly trumps this show. I have thousands of videos in backlog on gaming history. I don’t have a low-quality one. If you are someone who wants to know gaming news but doesn’t follow it super closely, this is not bad. Just not for me. Skip

The Replay by ESPN: I am not a big sports fan but, for whatever reason, I have always loved Sportscenter. Quibi’s The Replay feels like a mini-Sportscenter. And given that I don’t have ESPN, it’s a welcome substitute. I can definitely see this as my go-to sports news show. However, currently, they are clearly struggling for content. I hope they do some sports history. Binge

Weather Today by The Weather Channel: This 3-5 minute daily weather show is a good example for the kind of niche Quibi could fill. Weather Today is better than a weather website and more concise (but also more info-packed) than most television weather shows. And as far as I know, there aren’t any good weather recap shows on other platforms. Not a bad way to start the day. Binge

No Filter by TMZ: TMZ produces this inane celebrity gossip show. I hate it. I hate it. It’s something you easily find from YouTube channels like Clevver News or Snapchat or a variety of other platforms. Also, I just don’t care about Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky visiting the beach. I’m sorry. This show also releases twice a day for some reason. Skip

Close Up by E! News: E! News’ series Close Up is essentially a nicer version of No Filter. It’s still bad. The show has a very similar format to No Filter and also goes over inane celebrity gossip. However, I know people like that and this is a lot more bearable than No Filter. Pilot

All the Feels by The Dodo: All The Feels, currently Quibi’s shortest show, features a daily dose of animal cuteness. The pilot followed an amputee puppy. It did live up to its promise. But, this content is easy to find on practically every other platform in extreme abundance. Pilot

The Rachel Hollis Show: Your enjoyment of this show is entirely based on your thoughts on Hollis herself. This is her show entirely and is a daily recap of her philosophy. To me, I am not a big fan. She seems like a female Jordan Peterson (clean your room!) but with less academic know-how and more questionably expensive “wellness” seminars. But, like many other shows, it is well-made and has a nice clear structure. So this show, even more than others, is really viewer-by-viewer. Pilot

The Daily Chill: Inspired by the popular YouTube genre of ASMR and the recent meditation craze, The Daily Chill offers 5-7 minutes of relaxing visuals and sounds. The pilot episode is themed to a beach walk in Malibu. This is another show that feels at home on Quibi. It’s not the longer and more technical YouTube ASMR videos but is instead a nice little break for a long day. However, I do have one major criticism. As an ASMR connoisseur myself, the narrator here just doesn’t have a good whisper. I wish they would get one of the already established YouTubers. It did not ruin the show but it is a letdown. Pilot

Fresh Daily by Rotten Tomatoes: This daily recap goes over recent shows and movies and their reviews. Even though this info is not exactly new to me, I really like the host Andre “Black Nerd” Meadows and Maude Garrett. Both of these, I have followed for several years on YouTube. I am not sure if I would watch this show every day but I could see myself watching it from time to time. And for people that don’t follow movies and TV as close as I do, this is a concise digest. Pilot

The Nod with Brittany & Eric: A video version of the popular Gimlet podcast of the same name, hosts Brittany & Eric guide viewers every day through different facets of black culture. It’s a weaker Daily Essential. The pilot episode’s theme was “3 Reasons Why the Cheetah Girls Are Good Role Models for Professional Partnership”. It was very frivolous and the entertainment relied mostly on the friendship between Brittany & Eric. The premise of the show would definitely be better with deep dives, like on the original podcast. And this pilot came in at over nine minutes but it really felt strained. Skip

Trailers by Fandango: This is just a collection of recent movie trailers. You can easily access all of these trailers for free from the Fandango website, YouTube, or a myriad of other sites. Skip

Wrap-Up

Thoughts on the App (Android): The app works well but there are improvements that could be made. First off, I wish it was possible to see all shows in every major category (the three listed previously) in separate vertical lists. Think Disney+’s divisions (which is a service Quibi can learn a lot from). The shows are currently separated by semi-arbitrary genres. Second off, you can download shows. However, for such short episodes, it feels pointless to do so. My idea is to allow for a “Daily Download Queue”. You can select certain shows and they will automatically download the new episode and delete the previous one. I would love to have my favorite Daily Essentials downloaded and ready to watch when I am on the T to school. Finally, a major complaint about the service is that it is mobile-only. I completely understand why it is. Quibi is not supposed to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or a myriad of other services. In fact, one of its main competitors is Snapchat’s free original series, which can only be seen on your phone. The company wants to protect the premise of the service. But, I don’t see how the series could not be watched on TV. It seems very doable to convert all of the landscape-view footage to be watchable on the TV or your computer. Yes, the company has touted their “Turnstyle” technology which allows for seamless switching between portrait and landscape modes. But Quibi doesn’t need the feature to function and this mobile-only issue is angering many. This is not a problem for me, personally. If I am going to watch something on my TV or computer, I am going to watch Netflix, Prime, or any streaming service.

Thoughts on the Shows Overall: While I discuss this further in my final thoughts, the biggest issue for Quibi is finding its niche. To me, Quibi is for young adults aged 16-30 who want bite-sized but well-produced shows and quick news digests. Quibi’s shows are at their best when they are mini versions of popular TV shows. I don’t have the time or want to watch NBC News every day for an hour or more but I would watch it every day for 5-10 minutes. A show like Dishmantled, one of the best examples of a perfect Quibi show, offers the excitement of shows like Top Chef or Nailed It! without a time investment of an hour. That appeals to me as I don’t want to spend all that time on vapid reality TV. Quibi also works well for shows that are fun to watch but too specific for a longer runtime. The Shape of Pasta, Thanks a Million, and The Sauce are good examples of this. But in this specific space, Quibi has four major competitors: YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook Watch, and TikTok. Snapchat and Facebook Watch both offer similar content to Quibi. However, Facebook Watch’s shows can be as long as 30-50 minutes or as short as five. Quibi easily trumps this service as FB Watch has a nearly unusable interface. It is absurdly difficult to find the high-quality content you want. And there’s not a lot of content. Where FB Watch and the other services have an advantage is their cost—they are all free. But that low barrier to entry means there is both less content and the content that is there is of lower-quality. This is especially true with Snapchat. Snapchat’s ten or so “Snapchat Originals” would fit right in as Quibi shows. But, none of them come anywhere close to the quality level of Quibi. An original like Dead of Night has a unique mobile-only premise but the series seriously kicks the bucket after Episode 5. It kicks the bucket so hard I had planned to write an article on it. And most of the other shows are non-fiction and feel like cheaper versions of what Quibi offers. It’s also hard to find the shows as they can only be found (as far as I know) by specific searches. There is no “Snapchat Original” hub or at least the shows are mixed in with many other disposable “viral news” shows. TikTok and YouTube both offer a wide variety of creator-driven content. TikTok is mobile-only but doesn’t offer the quality level. You might get a laugh or two but it’s nowhere close to Quibi. To me, the biggest competitor with Quibi is YouTube. YouTube has an abundance of free high-quality content on pretty much anything. I based my entire Amusing Avocations article series off of my extensive time using the platform. And Quibi fails the most when it tries to be YouTube. Shows like All the Feels and Speedrun are worse versions of things I can find on YouTube. This brings me back to the beginning. Quibi works best as a mini TV. It’s well-produced and captures the feeling of television without asking for a huge time investment. I like that. It’s nice to not have to put in ten or more hours to join in the conversation on a particular show. But the real question is: does anyone really want or need Quibi?

Ideas for the Future: Having watched all of the launch content, I have ideas for possible Quibi shows. First off, I would love to see an adventure series in the vein of Indiana Jones that is a throwback to 30s and 40s serials. Give me action, romance, and a nice cliffhanger at the end of every episode. There are plenty of serials in the public domain so you could adapt one of those. Think of a title like Jungle Quest or Deep In the Amazon. Make it lighthearted and colorful but with plenty of intense peril. Also, director Timur Bekmambetov’s company Screen Life, best known for in-computer-only movies like Unfriended and Searching, would be great for a thriller series that takes place entirely on the character’s phone. Screen Life has already done a series like this: Dead of Night on Snapchat. That series was a lot of fun until it fell apart after the fifth episode. But there is a lot of potential. Give me a series set a few years ago with dead platforms like Vine included. There is a lot you could do. Both of these ideas would work great on Quibi and are hard-to-find outside it. 

Final Thoughts: Now that I have written over 4000 words on Quibi, is it worth buying? For most people, no. However, the audience for this service is similar to the audience for this website. Quibi is great for college students who want to join in pop culture but don’t have a lot of time to invest into it. I can see myself catching an episode between classes or meetings. I do feel that the service should cost $4.99 without ads and not have a with-ad version. With ads, Quibi is not worth it. The shows were generally good and I do plan to use the service regularly. As Slate’s Willa Paskin says, the service is “expensively competent”. My biggest concern is that no one wants or needs Quibi and it dies after a year or so. There is potential here for something great. Understand Quibi means understanding its niche. Many journalists have panned the service for things like being mobile-only. But Quibi is not meant to be a replacement for Netflix or even YouTube. It is a unique product in a market with many unique products. Only time will tell if Quibi survives these harsh streaming wars. I hope it does.