Jan 8, 2020

Quibi unveils "Turnstyle," its flagship mobile video format


Quibi on Wednesday revealed a new mobile video technique called Turnstyle that allows mobile video consumers to seamlessly switch between watching the same video on their smartphones either vertically or horizontally.

Why it matters: The technology, which was demoed to reporters on Tuesday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, is a huge part of what Quibi thinks will help differentiate its product from other mobile video experiences, like Snapchat or Instagram.

Details: Turnstyle is typically created by stitching together two videos of the same scene together, one captured in a landscape lens (horizontally) and one captured in a portrait lens (vertically), said Quibi chief product officer Tom Conrad in an interview with Axios. The format is patent-pending.

  • In many cases, Conrad says, video creators will shoot one very wide piece of footage and then can crop the same video in two ways — one in vertical and one in horizontal — so that they can be later stitched together to create Turnstyle.
  • Those creators then hand the footage back to Quibi to stitch together, says Rob Post, Quibi's chief technology officer. "What we actually do is we stitch these two videos together. We use a single audio track between them so there's no audio problems and then we do encoding and packaging. We get it down to delivery on the phone."

The big picture: Quibi is a subscription-based mobile video app that's being launched this April by Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former chairman of Walt Disney, and Meg Whitman, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard. The app aims to serve as a distribution vehicle for high-end mobile video content produced by Hollywood studios.

Be smart: The new format allows Quibi's users to experience the same scenes from slightly different perspectives. Conrad says that creators and Quibi's team work together to experiment with and improve the technology.

  • "Vertical feels quite intimate," said Catherine Hardwicke, a veteran Hollywood director and executive producer of the new Quibi show "Don't Look Deeper."
  • "You're quite closer [to the camera] and you don't have all the cinema-scope around you. In a landscape format, you feel more the environment — what the character is interacting with. It's interesting — you could watch the whole show twice."
  • Hardwicke says actors don't really have to do anything differently to ensure the content works for both scenarios. It's more about capturing the same footage from different lenses.

Other noteworthy announcements touched on the company's business plans, including its video release strategy.

Delivery strategy: Whitman, Quibi's CEO, says that on Wednesday during a keynote presentation Quibi will unveil its "feed," or app interface, for the first time.

  • "Every day there will be 25 shows in a feed that's unique for you," she told Axios. "We are meta-tagging every piece of content and then using machine learning to get you what we think you want. The more you use the app, the more customized it will be."
  • Whitman says the app will also include a search function.

Release strategy:

  • In the first year following Quibi's launch in April, the company says that more than ​175 new original shows​ and 8,500 quick bites of content will be rolled out. Whitman told Axios that Quibi plans to have 50–60 shows at launch.
  • Quibi has three types of video formats: "Movies Told in Chapters" (bigger stories in videos that are 7–10 minutes in length); "Episodic, Unscripted and Docs" (similar to TV content, which could feature topics ranging from sports to comedy to travel); and "Daily Essentials" (5–6 minute news and information shows).
  • Quibi says that each day it will deliver one episode of its Movies Told in Chapters, five episodes of its Episodic, Unscripted and Docs series, and 25 Daily Essentials. In total, Quibi says that adds up to ​more than three hours of premium, original content every day​.

Promotional strategy:

  • It launched Quibi Insiders, a promotional membership that gives users exclusive looks at new shows, on Wednesday, to get users excited about the product.
  • It says it will work with distribution partners like Google and T-Mobile, with which it has a distribution partnership, to ensure content is delivered seamlessly "regardless of network and bandwidth conditions. "

The business strategy:

  • Quibi will offer two subscription packages for users, one cheaper with ads and one without. Whitman says she doesn't know what the revenue mix will turn out to be.
  • "I think because our audience is 18- to 34-year-olds and our ad load is so light, that a majority will be ad-supported," Whitman told Axios. Whitman confirmed that each login only allows for one user to have access.
  • Whitman says it expects Quibi to be profitable in the next few years. "We wrote a business plan that the investors underwrote to a real path to profit in the not-to-distant future," which she says will be in less than 10 years but a little more than two.
  • She says Quibi's metric of success by the end of the year will be "paid net subscribers," but the company is not saying what its goals are.

The big picture: Whitman and Katzenberg stressed that although this is a creative product that leverages Hollywood talent and creativity, it operates and functions much more akin to a consumer service or product launch than a movie studio, which is hyper-focused on fast success, like opening weekend box office results.

"We're the opposite of Disney."
— Jeffrey Katzenberg

Our thought bubble: The Turnstyle technology is very impressive, and it truly does feel like something new and different. But it's unclear whether that will be enough to hook users into paying for another video service.

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