What is Quibi? And why did Zac Efron almost die filming a TV show for it?
Zac Efron is apparently deadly serious about the conceit of his Quibi show, Killing Zac Efron. Late last month, the High School Musical hunk announced he’d be starring and executive producing an adventure series for the soon-to-launch streaming service.
The idea is akin to Man vs. Wild or Naked and Afraid. Efron spends 21 days venturing “deep into the jungles of a remote, dangerous island to carve his own name in expedition history” with nothing but basic gear and a guide.
Turns out filming the show was legitimately dangerous. Last week, Australia’s Sunday Telegraph reported Efron had to be airlifted out of Papua New Guinea and taken to a hospital in Brisbane to be treated for an illness that was likely typhoid or another serious bacterial infection.
Efron confirmed his hospital stay on Instagram but said he’s fine now and back home in Los Angeles. “I did get sick in Papua New Guinea but I bounced back quick and finished an amazing 3 weeks in P.N.G. I’m home for the holidays with my friends and family. Thanks for all the love and concern, see you in 2020!” he wrote.
Okay, Efron getting very ill while filming a reality show predicated on his demise is inherently weird. But the spectre lurking beneath this story is Quibi, the soon-to-be-launched streaming platform that paid the actor to trek through the jungle in Papua New Guinea in the first place. Efron is one of many high-profile celebrities who’ve signed content deals with Quibi.
Chrissy Teigen is doing a Judge Judy-style show called Chrissy’s Court, where she presides over real-life small claims cases and her mom serves as the bailiff. Idris Elba is getting into stunt driving with his eight-episode series, Elba vs. Block, where he competes with professional rally driver Ken Block to conquer challenges like the “Wall of Death,” the “Car Tightrope,” and the “Flaming Obstacle Course.” There’s also a Quibi series called Thanks a Million, where celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Kristen Bell, and Tracy Morgan give away $100,000 to influential figures in their lives. Over the course of a season, the stars give out $1 million total.
The list goes on and on. Lena Waithe, Tyra Banks, Andy Samberg, Keke Palmer, Don Cheadle, Sophie Turner, Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro are all working on projects for Quibi. The service has announced more than 30 original projects and partnerships already and plans to spend over $1 billion on content development in its first year.
Former Disney and DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg founded Quibi in an attempt to corner the market on short, snackable content. Everything on Quibi will run 10 minutes or less. “You leave the house every morning with a little TV in your pocket. It’s called your smartphone,” Quibi CEO Meg Whitman said in 2018. “During the day, you have these in-between moments. Ten minutes here, 15 minutes there, where you want to see something great.”
Celebrities aren’t the only ones throwing their weight behind the service. Quibi has already raised more than $1 billion in funding from big-name investors like Warner Bros., NBCUniversal, and Disney. Sponsors have pre-purchased over $100 million in advertising time.
Quibi is stacking up to be a major player in the streaming wars, with enough starpower to challenge Netflix and Disney+. It’ll be neat to see how the platform’s technical innovations shake up the field — Quibi developers are working on making the horizontal-to-vertical viewing experience seamless, which hasn’t been cracked yet. Still, we’re hoping no other stars end up in the hospital in the name of entertainment before its launch.