Quibi’s biggest flaw at the moment is that none of its content stands out from the wealth of media already available to us. Chrissy’s Court is a fun riff on daytime TV court shows, but the actual cases and resolutions feel even more pointless and inconsequential than you’d expect for the genre. (And of course, John Legend shows up once in a while to flash that EGOT smile.) Most Dangerous Game, one of the service’s “Movies in Chapters,” is a remake of the classic human-hunting story — except this time it stars Liam Hemsworth and an appropriately scenery-chewing Christoph Waltz. It’s reasonably compelling, but whatever dramatic tension it builds up is destroyed by every clip’s short runtime. Thanks A Million is a show where celebrities give away $100,000 to people who’ve had a positive impact on their lives, but it comes across as more cringeworthy than heartwarming.
There are also a handful of documentaries and daily news shorts via outlets like the BBC, Telemundo and TMZ, but again none of them were exactly “must watch” entertainment. You’ll easily find similar news briefs on YouTube and podcasts. Quibi also plans to launch with 50 shows and aims to have 175 by the end of the year. There’s some notable content to look forward to from the likes of Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro. But frankly, after testing the service for a bit, I’m not excited to see some of my favorite filmmakers make content that’ll be trapped on tiny phone screens and quickly forgotten.
To make things worse, since Quibi’s shows are only viewable on mobile, you can’t easily use your phone to do anything else while watching them. Live-tweeting with your friends is a bit tough when you have to constantly shuffle between different apps. I was surprised to find that I couldn’t even AirPlay Quibi shows to my Apple TV (even by mirroring my phone), and there’s no Chromecast support either. That made it tough for me to share the insanity of Dishmantled with my wife — we were forced to crowd around my iPhone 11 Pro, while my 55-inch TV sat idle in front of us. This doesn’t feel like the future of content at all. (And if it is, I want no part of it.)
And then there are the ads. Quibi says it’ll only deliver a few minutes worth of commercials every hour with its $5 subscription, but you’ll see them often since every episode is so short. Ads even pop up when you try to download a show for offline viewing, which feels like they’re just nickel and diming you. At one point, I sat through a 15 second ad to watch an episode of Dishmantled, and then another 10 second ad played when I tried to download that same episode. It certainly feels odd to be paying for the privilege of watching commercials (and yes, I know Hulu does the same thing). You can forgo ads entirely with the $8 monthly subscription, but at that point you might as well just pay a dollar more for something more robust, like Netflix.
Quibi is the worst sort of over-funded, faux-innovative startup. It pretends to be changing the media industry, but it’s not actually solving any real issues for consumers, or the landscape as a whole. What it comes down to, really, is that nobody needs Quibi — not in the way you may need your daily YouTube or Netflix fix. And it could just be that nobody really wants a dedicated mobile video service.
We may stare at our phones all day, but we also hop between devices and rely on multiple screens so we can bingewatch and chat with friends at the same time. We’re used to media adapting to us, and nobody wants to be forced to watch middling content on the smallest screen they have.