A Quick Bite Post Mortem For For Quibi: Hollywood Still Doesn't Get The Internet

from the it-ain't-about-the-content dept

So Quibi, the Hollywood dream of creating a new "professional" video streaming service by throwing $1.75 billion at Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman and hoping they could create something, lasted all of 199 days before announcing that it was throwing in the towel (even though it apparently still has a chunk of that cash on hand, which it will be handing back to some investors). As we noted when it launched, Quibi is the perfect example of Hollywood thinking about the internet. It overvalued the content (and believed that you got the best content by throwing money at big names), and completely undervalued the internet and the fact that the killer application of the internet is community and communication.

For decades now, we've pointed out time and time again that Hollywood seems to view the internet through the lens of their existing industry -- one built up with a few giant gatekeepers who "greenlight" what content gets made -- and that the content they pick must be financed with ungodly sums of money. I'm reminded of the former NBC exec who quizzed me years ago about how to make sure his company could keep making $200 million movies. As I've noted repeatedly in the 15 years since I was challenged over that, the whole question is wrong. No one in the tech industry demands that others explain "how do we keep making $5,000 computers." The industry looks at how best to serve customers -- and often looks for creative ways to do it cheaper and more efficiently, rather than just setting a cost and tossing cash into it.

Quibi was the result of this kind of hubris: taking the Hollywood approach to an internet world. And it showed.

As James Surowiecki highlights in his own post-mortem, Quibi is basically the opposite of what a compelling internet service is because it relies on the idea of the brilliant visionary anointing the best content, rather than letting it bubble up via the wisdom of the crowds.

I find it notable that Quibi shut down the week that there was a flood of stories (and TV commercials) featuring Nathan Apodaca, the Idaho potato farmer who's random TikTok video of himself on a skateboarding heading into work (after his truck broke down) while drinking cranberry juice from a giant bottle and singling along to Fleetwood Mac went super viral. It was also a "quick bite" video, but it was basically the anti-Quibi. That one random video going viral has even brought Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" back onto the charts 43 years after the song came out.

That's the power of the internet. It allows anyone to create. It allows anyone to share. And out of all of that, it allows some amazing content to bubble up, because tons of people like it -- and not because some super rich Hollywood dude decides "this is what the people want."

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Filed Under: broadcast, communication, community, content, hollywood, internet, jeffrey katzenberg, meg whitman, sharing, value
Companies: quibi

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2020 @ 6:34am

    The wisdom of the crowds?!

    Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. (courtesy Wikipedia)

    Were the above the case in crowds, then the Hollywood model would work. There would be an educated estimate by equally wise people of the probabilities for different entertainment concepts. The most probable of the concepts would be funded and presented. If the estimate were correct, then the crowds would respond and there would be financial profit for Hollywood and the crowds would have the entertainment they want (mostly, if not perfectly)

    On the other hand, I'll grant that the crowds have experience. However I request evidence that, integrated over the whole, that crowds have knowledge, understanding, common sense and insight. As for for crowds thinking, by basic definition crowds may act but certainly don't think.

    No, I contend that crowds will determine what they want, mostly by an iterative emotional and argumentation mechanism. The emotional aspect has so many variables (race, age, nationality, taste, experience and so on) that even a cursory evaluation has a huge margin for error. The argumentation between the emotionally driven elements is a nearly random process. Therefore, any top down, hierarchical decision making process is likely less successful than a purely random one. The top down, hierarchical process will only pick the selections the top wants. The likelihood of matching the selection process of the crowds, from whom the top decision makers isolate themselves as much as possible, is virtually zero.

    Thus, there is little likelihood of success for Hollywood in it's current decision process.

    I offer the following as food for debate. Perhaps it would be better (regardless of political correctness) to study the demographics of target audiences, then several make short, cheap introductory segments, see what flies and the pattern of acceptance of each segment, THEN decide what to make with a big budget. Also, maybe instead of one big budget item, a series of medium budget items can be started with the later items being dependent on the success and pattern of acceptance of the earlier items.

    Furthermore, that the investment community continues to fund such an obviously illogical and unsuccessful process indicates that there is little wisdom in the investment community.

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