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Quibi Picked the Worst Time to Launch a Streaming Service for Short Attention Spans

For months, Quibi, the phone-based streaming service that launches today, has been getting roasted by the small group of people whose professions require them to know about the existence of Quibi. The gist of the jokes has been that Quibi sounds like a 30 Rock fiction come to life.

 The brainchild of billionaire boomers Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, it’s predicated on the idea that no one can pay attention any more, so if anything is going to lure the scattered, cell-phone obsessed youth away from the free and varied YouTube content with which they seem generally satisfied, it’s high production values that you can’t really see on a cell phone and the imprimatur of celebrities grandparents have heard of Quibi has gone on a buying spree for every famous person in Hollywood’s leftover ideas, which have been turned into “quick bites” of six to ten minutes a piece

According slate, the company has already raised $1.75 billion dollars, on the strength of that idea and a slate that includes a reality show called Murder House Flip.

As someone who has not been above a Quibi joke herself, I am disappointed to report that Quibi is neither a glorious embarrassment nor a surprising triumph. It is, instead, expensively competent.

The dozens of star-studded series it debuts with are, in general, solid and professional, and tend towards uplifting but brief documentaries I could totally imagine spacing out to in a waiting room. (The fact that almost no one the planet Earth is spacing out in a waiting room right now is another Quibi punchline.)

The implicit assumption of Quibi is that no one has any time anymore, even, say, for a 22-minute sitcom. And yet it is arriving at a moment when a majority of Americans have more time than they had weeks ago—if also, perhaps, even more shredded attention spans.

If eight minutes of distraction sounds like all you can attend to right now, Quibi has a lot of celebrities who would like to help you with that. Reese Witherspoon narrates Fierce Queens, an anthologynature doc series about different female animals ants, cheetahs, hyenas that is chock-full of howling feminist puns. Jennifer Lopez kickstarts Thanks a Million, which would more properly be titled “Thanks a 50K,” in which celebrities give someone they are grateful to $100,000 of their own money, the one condition being they pass on half to someone else.

The fact that it is incredible PR for the celebrities does not mean it won’t make you cry, and the same goes for I Promise, a hagiographic yet moving look at the Akron, Ohio public school funded by LeBron James.

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