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Quibi lets you screenshot now (if you know a cheat code)

Mobile-focused video service Quibi previously blocked users from taking screenshots of its episodes, which stunted them from being memed or going viral on social media.

Quibi launched in April but didn't allow screenshots of its episodes until now. 
Sarah Tew/CNET

Quibi, a mobile streaming service that launched in April, now lets viewers screenshot its shows, the company's head of product Tom Conrad said in a Twitter thread Thursday -- a seemingly simple function but one that's crucial to building social-media buzz for shows.  

Quibi's screenshotting feature, however, doesn't work the standard way you'd screengrab anything else on your phone. If you follow your mobile device's normal procedures to take a screenshot of a Quibi video, you'll end up saving a black screen to your camera roll or gallery.


Quibi screenshotting involves long pressing your screen and sliding over to save the image. 


Instead, while watching a Quibi video, you need to press and hold the screen, then slide over and release to take a screenshot. The first time you take a screenshot you will be prompted to allow the Quibi app to access your camera, which is what gives the app the permission to save the screenshots to your device. 

This specialized screenshotting procedure is because Quibi needs to get around copyright protections known as digital rights management, or DRM. DRM is what prevents you from pirating video of a streaming services' shows and movies on your phone simply by making a screen recording of it. But DRM on mobile operating systems can also block you from simply taking a screenshot image of a protected piece of media, which is what has been happening in Quibi since launch.

Conrad said Quibi creators generally want DRM protections, presumably because neither the creators nor Quibi itself want people to easily pirate its shows. So to keep DRM in place but still provide a way to take screenshots, Quibi had to come up with this workaround. 

Quibi screenshots aren't unavailable on downloaded titles, and some episodes don't allow them at all. Screenshots do not capture closed captions or subtitles.

Quibi launched in the US and Canada as service designed to watch on the go, just as swaths of North America were locking down because of the coronavirus pandemic, one of several hurdles to the service reaching its ambitious growth goals. 

Quibi hoped its unconventional strategy -- very expensive, star-packed programming released in 10-minute-or-less episodes that you can watch only on phones or mobile devices -- would find a sweet spot in a streaming landscape crowded with the likes of NetflixDisney PlusApple TV PlusPeacock and HBO Max, as well as established players like Netflix. And of course, Quibi faces a Goliath in YouTube, the short-video specialist that's already drawing in more than 2 billion viewers every month. 

But the company's mobile-only strategy underestimated the demand to watch its big-budget programming on TVs, especially as people were stuck at home more than ever. And the fact taht its programming was hard to share or meme on social networks stunted virality and word of mouth. 

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