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Deep Dive into ReelShort

ReelShort is a mobile app providing snackable streaming video tailored for the short attention spans of today's viewers.

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QUIBI (short for "Quick Bites") was a streaming video startup founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman in 2018 that focused entirely on short-form videos optimized for mobile devices.

QUIBI launched in April 2020 with big ambitions to revolutionize entertainment through “quick bites” of 10 minutes or less across news, comedy, reality, and scripted drama categories.

However, despite raising $1.75 billion in funding, the service shut down just 6 months later in October 2020 - failing to gain any meaningful traction.

There were a few key reasons why Quibi failed:

  1. Poor timing with pandemic - Quibi centered its content for on-the-go viewing, but the service launched soon after stay-at-home orders, diminishing its core value proposition.
  2. Lackluster exclusivity - Much of Quibi's content catalog was not truly exclusive and could be found for free on other platforms, giving little incentive to subscribe.
  3. Subpar user experience - Technical drawbacks like awkward portrait/landscape transitions made the mobile streaming experience underwhelming.
  4. Overreliance on individual talent over brands - Quibi greenlit many generic projects banking just on big director/actor names rather than franchises.
  5. Confusing marketing messaging - Quibi positioning was fuzzy, making it unclear if it was a standalone streaming service or YouTube competitor.

However, there may be an opportunity to create a successful entertainment app focused specifically around short, bite-sized video content and storytelling, with each video clip spanning just 1-2 minutes in length.

Changing User Behaviour on Short Video Apps

Since the launch of short video app TikTok in 2016, which initially focused on 15-second bite-sized videos, users are now spending more time viewing longer-form content on the platform.

Source: The Information
TikTok users now spend 50% of their time watching videos longer than 1 minute, according to a presentation given to creators last month. (Source: The Information)

This changing behaviour of consumers on short video apps make the timing right for ReelShort to launch the services.

Enter ReelShort

Now in 2023 a Chinese App is taking a shot at QUIBI like entertainment service using “bite-sized” shows with real actors, and uses a virtual currency to unlock further episodes.

ReelShort is owned by the COL Group, a digital publisher based in Beijing, and features shows adapted from Chinese scripts that were first written and produced for audiences in China.

ReelShort Website showcasing the shows

The Content on ReelShort

According to TechCrunch "ReelShort’s video content itself is arguably worse than Quibi’s — and Quibi’s was not always great. The acting and writing in ReelShort are so bad that you almost have to wonder if it’s intentional at times. The stories themselves are like snippets from low-quality soaps — or as if those mobile storytelling games came to life."

A serialized Chinese romance drama adopted for Western audience show on ReelShort is generally structured into over 50 gripping mini-episodes spanning 90 to 120 seconds in length.
Users can watch for free, though advertisements must be viewed to unlock additional installments; alternatively, paying for virtual currency "coins" permits unlocking full access.
A full multi-episode series, comprising 50+ bite-sized dramatic arcs tailored for Western viewers, is accessible by purchasing coins within a typical range of $10 to $20.

On average, ReelShort generates roughly $2 per download, Appfigures says. That’s more than Quibi’s estimated $0.73 per download, though that comparison doesn’t consider inflation. (source: TechCrunch)


Since its launch in August 2022, the ReelShort app has seen tremendous early traction - amassing 11 million downloads across iOS and Android devices while generating $22 million in net revenue. Propelled by this momentum, ReelShort moreover spent several days ranked as the No. 2 top app overall in the U.S. this month. It additionally captured the No. 1 spot within the Entertainment category for approximately four days on the chart.

While bite-sized video mobile apps have seen prior attempts, ReelShort’s savvy localization of proven Chinese video IP could strike content gold. The app first adapts stories produced for Chinese streaming platforms into scripts suited for Western audiences. Shooting then occurs using English-speaking casts before releasing through a Netflix-style model requiring viewership of ads or virtual coin purchase to unlock more episodes.

As viewing habits drift across generations, ReelShort's intuition that even complex stories can thrive when structured around snackable chapters stands validated by early indicators. Nonetheless challenges persis around sustaining differentiation. Though the market dynamics seem auspicious for short streaming video, time will tell if narrative focused app experiences like ReelShort can seize and retain attention spans through evolving attractions.

Watch a Sample Video Here