Steven Spielberg may not fully approve of digital entertainment competing with movies for eyes and accolades, but that isn’t stopping him from writing a horror series meant to be watched on phones. The twist on this one: you’ll only be able to watch it when it’s dark out.
Spielberg’s After Dark will play out over 10 to 12 episodes exclusively on Quibi (short for “Quick Bites”), a planned platform dedicated to short-form video, created by former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman. Spielberg has already written “five or six episodes,” Katzenberg announced at the Banff World Media Festival in Canada, as reported by Variety.
Since Spielberg wanted the show to only be available at night, Quibi’s engineering team came up with a new way to deliver each episode. Using the internal clock on a subscriber’s phone, Quibi can tell when the sun is about to set. A clock will appear in the app, according to Variety, that will count down until the moment the sun disappears. The episode will be available to watch only then. The series will then disappear from the app until the next night. Think of it as appointment television, but with a new technological twist.
“Steven Spielberg came in and said, ‘I have a super scary story I want to do,’” Katzenberg said, according to Variety. “He’s writing it himself. He hasn’t [written anything in a while], so getting him to write something is fantastic.”
It’s one of the many shows Quibi has announced as part of its launch lineup. There will also be eight “super premium” productions, which are essentially short movies, according to Katzenberg. There will also be more “lighthouse” productions, aka prestigious TV shows, rolling out every single week. The goal is to have 125 pieces of content a week, both short films and TV shows. That’s about 7,000 pieces in year one.
Quibi is one of the stranger streaming services set to launch within the next 12 months. WarnerMedia, Disney, NBC Universal, and Viacom are all launching their own form of streaming services. Katzenberg and Whitman have raised more than $1 billion in funding for their short-form project. The idea is to appeal to cord-cutters who want entertainment on the go, but don’t want to settle in for a long series like Game of Thrones or a lengthy movie like Avengers: Endgame. Think YouTube, but made by experienced, high-profile filmmakers and TV writers in Katzenberg’s contacts list.
“What Quibi is doing, it’s not really short-form,” Katzenberg said. “We’re putting those sciences together. Chapters or act breaks that are 7 to 10 minutes long. They are specifically shot to be watched on the go. If you’re 25-35 years old, you get up and you’re on [a smartphone] for over five hours.”
Quibi is set to launch on April 6th, 2020. It will cost $4.99 per month for an ad-supported version, and $7.99 a month for an ad-free version.