Quibi mobile-streaming service wants CES to know WTF it is now

Quibi has a funky name and major Hollywood backing. Launching in April, it came to CES to start its long fight to get your attention.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Quibi is a mobile-only streaming service focused on 10-minute-or-less bits of programming, launching April 6. 


You've probably never heard of Quibi. But this billion-dollar-backed mobile-video startup came to CES hoping to start getting your attention. 

"What Quibi is: It's that next generation of movies and chapters, but on a device that has now been innovated to actually become a great mobile-watching experience, as opposed to just bringing a little TV screen to you," Quibi founder and Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg said in an interview Wednesday, ahead of the company's keynote address at CES. 

Quibi, which has even morphed its Twitter name to "WTFisQuibi" in recent weeks, is backed by every major Hollywood studio and touts itself as a star-studded mobile subscription service for short-form video -- "quick bites," or quibis, as the company has dubbed them. 

But the thing most likely to get your attention is its eye-popping slate of talent. Among traditional Hollywood stars, Quibi has lined up projects involving Dwayne Johnson, Chrissy Teigen, Kevin Hart, Jennifer Lopez, Liam Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Zac Efron, Tina Fey and husband-and-wife combo Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner (but on different shows) -- as well as a dizzying number of others. Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Guillermo del Toro, Antoine Fuqua, Catherine Hardwicke and Ridley Scott are all contributing series. Plus, Quibi has recruited popular online celebs like Liza Koshy, Shan Boodram and Rachel Hollis.

In briefings ahead of its keynote presentation Wednesday, Quibi confirmed the basic stats that people following the service already know: It'll launch April 6 as a mobile-only service, costing $8 a month for ad-free memberships or $5 for monthly subscriptions that also run ads. It's making "movie quality," big-budget shows that'll be serialized in segments lasting 10 minutes or less. And Quibi has developed a mobile viewing technology called Turnstyle, which lets a program dynamically react when viewers flip between portrait or landscape mode.

But Quibi's ramp-up comes amid intensifying competition, as tech and media giants both are rushing to define the future of video.

Tech powerhouses like Netflix, Apple and AT&T are pouring resources into becoming media heavyweights. Besides the $15 billion budget Netflix spent on programming last year, Apple  launched its Apple TV Plus service in November on the back of a reported $6 billion budget to rope in some of Hollywood's biggest stars. And AT&T's HBO Max will unleash in May with Friends, Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones and Watchmen plus its own lineup of originals. 

At the same time, traditional media players are arming themselves with tech firepower.  Disney  launched its Netflix competitor, Disney Plus, in November, a culmination of its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox last year and of years spent reorienting the entire company around the service. And Comcast's NBCUniversal is waiting in the wings to follow suit with its own streaming service, called Peacock, early this year. 

Not to mention: There's this little site called YouTube.com, specializing in short videos, drawing in more than 2 billion video viewers every month.