Video: Streaming service Quibi takes on Netflix and TikTok

Actor Sarah Gadon and journalists Reshmi Nair and Kayla Grey talk launching a $1.75-billion mobile-only streaming platform in the middle of a pandemic

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      Remember how Twitter forced our thoughts into 140 characters?

      Quibi, a new mobile-first streaming platform that launched this week, is taking a similar approach to content, serving it up in under 10-minute episodes.

      Quibi is short for “quick bites" and was founded by Hollywood exec Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman. The US$1.75-billion platform launched on April 6 and is styled as a competitor for both Netflix and TikTok.

      Debuting in the time of coronavirus might seem like a less-than-ideal time to grab anyone's attention, but then again people stuck in self-isolation have plenty of time for new content.

      "I think people are looking for a combination of things to do and things to distract them," says Toronto actor Sarah Gadon, who stars in the Quibi action series Most Dangerous Game opposite Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz. "A lot of people are at home working or with their kids, and they still might not have the time or energy to sit down and watch a whole film at the end of their day. Sometimes having something small that's entertaining, exciting and fun for ten minutes can be a relief."

      Most Dangerous Game, a modern take on the century-old Richard Connell short story, leads Quibi’s debut lineup alongside survival thrillers like the unsubtly titled Survive starring Sophie Turner (Game Of Thrones) and Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton); a new version of Punk’d hosted by Chance The Rapper; the doc series I Promise about the public school for at-risk youth founded by LeBron James and Drag Race winner Sasha Velour’s backstage series NightGowns.

      In terms of CanCon, the platform also hosts local content exclusively through Bell Media including Sports AM By TSN with anchors Kayla Grey and Lindsay Hamilton; NewsDay By CTV with Heather Butts and NewsNight By CTV with Reshmi Nair. The shows and news programming are tailored for mobile, with information-dense presentation and framing that smoothly transitions between portrait and landscape.

      "While you're shooting, you simultaneously have to pick for two shots," Gadon explains, praising Canadian cinematographer Matthew J. Lloyd's tricky work on Most Dangerous Game. "It looks gorgeous. It looks so cinematic."

      Whether Quibi will takes off like TikTok or ends up forgotten like Shomi is anyone’s guess.

      NOW magazine in Toronto connected Gadon, Nair, and Grey to discuss the format and how the platform’s launch has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch the video below.