New Streaming Contender Quibi: The Jury’s Still Out For Black Consumers

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Written by Lauren DeLisa Coleman
Quibi
New streaming contender Quibi is programming content by Queen Latifah, Courtney Tezeno and Cam Newton, but the jury’s still out for Black consumers. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has an unscripted documentary on Quibi: “Iron Sharpens Iron.” Newton stretches prior to an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 8, 2019. Image: AP Photo/Brian Blanco

So the latest streaming contender, Quibi, is on the scene. Quibi is about entertainment on-the-go in bite-sized pieces, launched during a time when people are homebound.

I interviewed Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg during the Cannes Lions Festival about two years ago.

Katzenberg spoke a bit wearily about the venture. He was none too happy with having to repeat what he’d said on stage at an earlier event for a cluster of us in the media who couldn’t make it. Instead, we were invited to a posh suite of the exclusive The Carlton hotel high above the fashionable La Croisette in the south of France.

This behavior seemed surprising. Usually, one cannot stop a founder from talking about his project. But, perhaps, therein lies the paradox that is Quibi.

It’s a new world. Companies are pivoting to create respirators. Jack Dorsey’s Twitter and Square are donating $1B to COVID-19 relief. Netflix is donating to the unemployed in Hollywood. Something about Quibi’s obsequious marketing push and buy-now pricing seems maybe a bit out of step.

Lauren de Lisa Coleman

What was very much evident during that moment was that Katzenberg, with deep experiences and accolades at the top of the Hollywood production food chain (think: Dreamworks, “Shrek” and more), was how disappointed he was at the production level of the average YouTube video (no matter that they were typically intended for a younger audience that gravitated to what seemed to be a more authentic, gritty and transparent style offering anything from product reviews to comedy sketches).

It almost seemed a personal affront that such bad lighting could be used in a creator’s bedroom to talk about, say, the latest haircare product (never mind that such creators were racking up so many subscribers that giants in the industry, such as L’Oréal and Lancôme, who still haven’t quite figured out how to leverage the platform, quickly scooped up new gurus for deals).

Thus, short-form video, it was decided, needed to be saved. Now fresh from a nearly $2-billion raise, Katzenberg, along with Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and, let us not forget, former gubernatorial candidate for California in 2010, are offering Quibi.

The name, as everyone pretty much knows by now, is inspired by “quick bites”. Each episode is no more than 10 minutes or so.

Think of Quibi as your cleaned-up YouTube brother or no-holds-barred TikTok sister or your centralized version of D-Live.  

Thing is, will such a format prove sustainable over time for a very fickle millennial and Generation Z audience? Subscribers are not only being asked for brand loyalty over all other streaming video offerings today but also at a price of $5 per month with ads or $8 a month without ads.

Let’s first start with Quibi programming by Black and brown people. There are certainly names of note and some you may not yet know and no shortage of either. To date:

Movies in chapters

Queen Latifah – “When The Street Lights Go On”

Stephan James and Laurence Fishburne – “#FreeRayshawn”

Unscripted documentaries

LeBron James – “I Promise”

Chrissy Teigen – “Chrissy’s Court”

Chance The Rapper – “Punk’d”

Tituss Burgess – “Dishmantled”

KeKe Palmer – “Singled Out”

Usher, Ayo, and Teo – “The Sauce”

Lena Waithe – “You Ain’t Got These”

Offset – “Skrrt with Offset”

Idris Elba – “Elba v Block”

Cam Newton – “Iron Sharpens Iron”

Daily essentials

Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings – “The Nod”

Courtney Tezeno – “Close Up by E! News”

Respected TV critics of Hollywood power trades such as “The Hollywood Reporter” have already categorized a variety of titles into the good, the bad, and the meh.

Clearly such reviews by older-generation, mainstream professionals may differ from those who are true influencers. Indeed, either they will have even sharper knives out or be more forgiving. This is where the interest will truly rest.

However, what is most telling is consumer commentary to date on social media. When I researched Twitter about Quibi sentiment, a number of the posts said they felt that Quibi was trending only due to an ad and influencer buy. There was also seemingly an unbalanced number of glowing tweets around Sophie Turner (“Game of Thrones” show “Survive”).

But most intriguing was that there seemed to be little register on Black Twitter and, indeed, no Black people or people of color attached to posts for the first couple of pages of a Quibi hashtag search.

Just to cross-check, I did the same search on Instagram. To date, about 5,000 posts exist with the #Quibi hashtag. The machine is clearly at work here for all those outlets and critics who matter to Quibi.

However, the jury still seems to be out for the all-important influential consumer, particularly Black consumers. This is key since so much of popular culture is driven by this demographic.

At the same time, there seems to be a feeling among certain critics that Quibi is offering programming that is already available elsewhere — and doing so without greater innovation.

However, what the company seems to be relying upon, and has already encountered some legal IP issues with, is the technology that enables both vertical and horizontal orientations on your phone in order to make viewing easier.

However, some have written that, even with what is called this turnstile feature, complete viewing of a full-frame still can fall a bit short depending on orientation. Even so, the advent of this technology is intriguing and could, quite possibly, have simply been a standalone tech innovation itself that somehow partnered with a now-competing platform.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 70: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the COVID-19 crisis. He talks about the failed leadership of Trump, Andrew Cuomo, CDC Director Robert Redfield, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and New York Mayor de Blasio.

Time will tell whether such elements as orientation are truly enough for one to spend an additional $8 a month, particularly during an impending recession.

But it’s a new world. Companies are giving away products and services or pivoting to create much-needed respirators. Jack Dorsey’s Twitter and Square are donating $1 billion to Global COVID-19 Relief. Netflix is donating to the unemployed in Hollywood. Something about Quibi’s obsequious marketing push and buy-now pricing seems maybe a bit out of step with new approaches.

Only time will tell whether real and lasting traction with Quibi will make for notable next acts for both Katzenberg and Whitman.

You can see for yourself with your own 90-day free Quibi trial via an app store near you.

Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a digi-cultural trend analyst, author and strategist. Her expertise is deciphering and forecasting power trends, public sentiment within the convergence of pop culture, millennials & emerging tech behavior, and analyzing the impact on business, governance. Her sub-specialty is diverse demos. She is a contributor to media outlets from Forbes to Campaigns & Elections, and a guest commentator on MSNBC. As an entrepreneur, she has provided strategic intelligence on projects from Snoop Dogg and Microsoft execs to public policy leaders. She heads Lnk Agency, a hot trend consulting & multimedia company. Her latest e-book is “America’s Most Wanted: The Millennial.” You can read her Forbes contributions here. You can read her Inc column here.