TikTok Challenging TV
Quibi is back. Kind of.
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It is easy to laugh at the demise of Quibi, the heavily funded app that was meant to make original, high-quality vertical content and, believe me, I have. However, amidst the mirth at a failed vanity project, it is worth remembering that Quibi launched just as the Covid pandemic took hold. The idea was that shows on the platform would be easy to consume in short bites when doing things like standing in a coffee shop queue or commuting. Then we had to stop doing those things for quite a while.
That’s why a story in Wired caught my eye today. It describes a new show called “Cobell Energy” which was shot vertically and will be released on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. The idea is obviously to build on pre-existing consumption habits, particularly in younger viewers for whom watching vertical video on a phone is second nature.
It is obviously pretty scary for TV makers to let the TikTok algorithm decide whether or not their show gets seen. That said, they are seemingly happy to put their success in the hands of Netflix and its decisions on what work to put on a viewer’s home screen. (The big cheques probably help with that.)
The real question is whether people want to watch multi-part scripted content in this way. UK regulator Ofcom’s “Media Nations 2023” report might give the creators of “Cobell Energy” and others some hope. The research showed broadcast TV viewership crashing, even amongst older demographics. Crucially, it found that 16-24-year-olds now watch less TV than 4-15-year-olds, the first time this has ever happened. Parallel to that, it found that “in March 2023, 5.2 million 15-24-year-olds visited TikTok, spending an average of 58 minutes per day on the platform.”
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