L.A. Tech Updates: Quibi's Woes, TikTok's Riches, Snap Rolls Out Pride Lenses

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Snap Pride lenses

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  • New Streaming Data Underline Quibi's Struggles
  • John Legend Takes to Wave's Virtual Stage
  • TIkTok Reportedly Rakes in $200M
  • Snap Rolls Out Pride Lenses For U.S. Regions

New Streaming Data Underline Quibi's Struggles


Things started so rosily for Quibi, with a fat $1.75 billion fundraise, loads of content deals with A-listers, and a sold-out advertising slate. But lately it's been nothing but bad news.

Recent reports have depicted all kinds of troubles: low demand, executive departures, unhappy advertisers, an ongoing intellectual property lawsuit, and a potential rift between its two chiefs, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman. All this on top of a global pandemic that has done no favors to the company's initial value proposition of serving the "on-the-go" moments of consumers' lives.

Quibi is apparently trying to respond. Variety reported on Wednesday that the L.A.-based mobile-first, short-form video platform has been negotiating with Amazon and Roku to accelerate its availability onto connected devices. Company executives have also reportedly taken pay cuts.

Data provided to dot.LA by JustWatch, an analytics firm with offices in L.A. and Berlin, show that in May, Quibi and its content library captured just 0.5% of the U.S. streaming audience's interest. Netflix led the way at 31%, followed by Amazon Prime Video at 18%, Hulu at 11%, and Disney+ at 8%.

Industry observers have frequently cited Quibi's lack of a hit show, combined with its nonexistent back catalog of familiar favorites, as a key reason why it has struggled since its April launch.

JustWatch's data suggest that Reno 911!, which debuted on Quibi in early May, was far and away the most popular show on the app last month. The firm estimates that the rebooted police satire was four times more popular than the runner-up, The Stranger, and 12 times more popular than Quibi's third-ranked title, Most Dangerous Game.

Quibi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

John Legend Takes to Wave's Virtual Stage


Wave, an entertainment technology company that turns performers into digital avatars and puts them on virtual stages where they can entertain and interact with fans, announced that John Legend will perform on the platform on Thursday, June 25th at 3:00pm PT.

Legend had previously been slated to participate in the L.A.-based entertainment firm's "One Wave" virtual concert series, but no date had been announced before Wednesday.

The performance, available via YouTube and Twitter, will feature new songs from the EGOT winner's upcoming album, "Bigger Love." Leveraging the Wave platform's interactivity, attendees will be able to send "visual gifts" throughout the performance, with 100% of the proceeds going to Legend's FREEAMERICA criminal justice reform campaign.

Wave is partnering with PEOPLE for the Legend performance. Sponsors also include Yamaha and Valence, a "new social network addressing diversity by connecting Black talent with economic opportunity." The Ad Council will also be providing public service announcements and resources during the show for fighting racial injustice.

Fresh off a $30 million Series B fundraise, Wave has hosted over 50 events, for up to 400,000 people at a time.

​TIkTok Reportedly Raked in $200M

The Information reported Wednesday that TikTok earned between $200 million and $300 million in revenue worldwide in 2019. The news site also said the Culver City-based social media phenomenon's 2020 revenue goals are $500 million in the U.S. alone. These figures follow a separate report from Bloomberg last month that TikTok's parent company ByteDance raked in $17 billion in 2019, and pocketed over $3 billion in profit.

A TikTok company spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny the figures, saying "we don't publicly share company data or revenue metrics."

In response to The Information's report that TikTok is considering hiring an American executive to oversee its sales team, the spokesperson said, "We are always looking at new opportunities to scale and attract great talent for our teams."

TikTok, which is now under the leadership of former Disney streaming executive Kevin Mayer, will be participating later this month in the NewFronts, the digital media world's jamboree of presentations to woo advertising buyers, which will be virtual this year.

Snap Rolls Out Pride Lenses For U.S. Regions

Courtesy of Snap

June is Pride Month, and instead of the annual in-person festivities, L.A. Pride has been celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of virtual events. Now, Snap is adding augmented reality (AR) to the mix. The Santa Monica company released five new AR lenses on Wednesday in partnership with L.A.'s Pride Media. The "community of storytellers, innovators and influencers" reaches over 6 million monthly unique users, which Pride says surpasses any other LGBT media brand.

The new lenses, which is Snap-speak for the digital overlays that transform a camera image, "spotlight diverse, queer-identifying changemakers advancing equity for all people in every U.S. state," according to a company statement. The release is paired with the annual "Champions of Pride" issue from The Advocate, a Pride Media subsidiary publication.

A Snap spokesperson describes the five new lenses as "art gallery-style spaces" that help Snap's young-leaning users learn about LGBTQ+ and BIPOC advocates. These include "Mighty" Rebekah, a 13-year-old who successfully lobbied for an LGBTQ-inclusive school curriculum in her home state of New Jersey, and Brandon Wolf, the first survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando to testify before Congress.

Snap tapped five designers from its official lens creator cohort to represent five U.S. regions. Each creator has regional ties and either identifies as LGBTQ+ or an ally, the company says.

Brielle Garcia, designer of the Pacific West lens, says, "I wanted to work on a Pride lens that was not just a celebration of the past, but a celebration of our future. I hope these Lenses can be an encouragement to everyone in the LGBT community. Encouragement that people as unique as you can have success in business, politics, art, or anything you can dream of. This message is important to me because this kind of success has not always been available to us. So many amazing people have come before us to pave the way and this is a celebration of their success and a guide to what you can achieve."

Joshua Keeney, repping the Northeast, says, "The takeaways that I want people to have with this Lens is that there is incredible diversity within the LGBTQ community, that everyone can be a champion in their own way, and can bring changes to their own communities."


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Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable
Evan Xie

The original dream of streaming was all of the content you love, easily accessible on your TV or computer at any time, at a reasonable price. Sadly, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have come together over the last decade or so to recognize that this isn’t really economically viable. Instead, the streaming marketplace is slowly transforming into something approximating Cable Television But Online.

It’s very expensive to make the kinds of shows that generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement from global audiences that drives the growth of streaming platforms. For every international hit like “Squid Game” or “Money Heist,” Netflix produced dozens of other shows whose titles you have definitely forgotten about.

The marketplace for new TV has become so massively competitive, and the streaming landscape so oversaturated, even relatively popular shows with passionate fanbases that generate real enthusiasm and acclaim from critics often struggle to survive. Disney+ canceled Luscasfilm’s “Willow” after just one season this week, despite being based on a hit Ron Howard film and receiving an 83% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon dropped the mystery drama “Three Pines” after one season as well this week, which starred Alfred Molina, also received positive reviews, and is based on a popular series of detective novels.

Even the new season of “The Mandalorian” is off to a sluggish start compared to its previous two Disney+ seasons, and Pedro Pascal is basically the most popular person in America right now.

Now that major players like Netflix, Disney+, and WB Discovery’s HBO Max have entered most of the big international markets, and bombarded consumers there with marketing and promotional efforts, onboarding of new subscribers inevitably has slowed. Combine that with inflation and other economic concerns, and you have a recipe for austerity and belt-tightening among the big streamers that’s virtually guaranteed to turn the smorgasbord of Peak TV into a more conservative a la carte offering. Lots of stuff you like, sure, but in smaller portions.

While Netflix once made its famed billion-dollar mega-deals with top-name creators, now it balks when writer/director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday”) asks for $150 million to pay her cast of A-list actors. Her latest romantic comedy will likely move over to Warner Bros., which can open the film in theaters and hopefully recoup Scarlett Johansson and Michael Fassbender’s salaries rather than just spending the money and hoping it lingers longer in the public consciousness than “The Gray Man.”

CNET did the math last month and determined that it’s still cheaper to choose a few subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime over a conventional cable TV package by an average of about $30 per month (provided you don’t include the cost of internet service itself). But that means picking and choosing your favorite platforms, as once you start adding all the major offerings out there, the prices add up quickly. (And those are just the biggest services from major Hollywood studios and media companies, let alone smaller, more specialized offerings.) Any kind of cable replacement or live TV streaming platform makes the cost essentially comparable to an old-school cable TV package, around $100 a month or more.

So called FAST, or Free Ad-supported Streaming TV services, have become a popular alternative to paid streaming platforms, with Fox’s Tubi making its first-ever appearance on Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings just last month. (It’s now more popular than the first FAST service to appear on the chart, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV.) According to Nielsen, Tubi now accounts for around 1% of all TV viewing in the US, and its model of 24/7 themed channels supported by semi-frequent ad breaks couldn’t resemble cable television anymore if it tried.

Services like Tubi and Pluto stand to benefit significantly from the new streaming paradigm, and not just from fatigued consumers tired of paying for more content. Cast-off shows and films from bigger streamers like HBO Max often find their way to ad-supported platforms, where they can start bringing in revenue for their original studios and producers. The infamous HBO Max shows like “The Nevers” and “Westworld” that WBD controversially pulled from the HBO Max service can now be found on Tubi or The Roku Channel.

HBO Max’s recently-canceled reality dating series “FBoy Island” has also found a new home, but it’s not on any streaming platform. Season 3 will air on TV’s The CW, along with a new spinoff series called (wait for it) “FGirl Island.” So in at least some ways, “30 Rock” was right: technology really IS cyclical.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

As TikTok Faces a Ban, Competitors Prepare to Woo Its User Base
Evan Xie

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

Another day, another update in the unending saga that is the potential TikTok ban.

The latest: separate from the various bills proposing a ban, the Biden administration has been in talks with TikTok since September to try and find a solution. Now, having thrown its support behind Senator MarkWarner’s bill, the White House is demanding TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, sell its stakes in the company to avoid a ban. This would be a major blow to the business, as TikTok alone is worth between $40 billion and $50 billion—a significant portion of ByteDance’s $220 billion value.

Clearly, TikTok faces an uphill battle as its CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. But other social media companies are likely looking forward to seeing their primary competitor go—and are positioning themselves as the best replacement for migrating users.


Last year, The Washington Post reported that Meta paid a consulting firm to plant negative stories about TikTok. Now, Meta is reaping the benefits of TikTok’s downfall, with its shares rising 3% after the White House told TikTok to leave ByteDance. But this initial boost means nothing if the company can’t entice creators and viewers to Instagram and Facebook. And it doesn’t look promising in that regard.

Having waffled between pushing its short-form videos, called Reels, and de-prioritizing them in the algorithm, Instagram announced last week that it would no longer offer monetary bonuses to creators making Reels. This might be because of TikTok’s imminent ban. After all, the program was initially meant to convince TikTok creators to use Instagram—an issue that won’t be as pressing if TikTok users have no choice but to find another platform.


Alternatively, Snap is doing the opposite and luring creators with an ad revenue-sharing program. First launched in 2022, creators are now actively boasting about big earnings from the program, which provides 50% of ad revenue from videos. Snapchat is clearly still trying to win over users with new tech like its OpenAI chatbot, which it launched last month. But it's best bet to woo the TikTok crowd is through its new Sounds features, which suggest audio for different lenses and will match montage videos to a song’s rhythm. Audio clips are crucial to TikTok’s platform, so focusing on integrating songs into content will likely appeal to users looking to recreate that experience.


With its short-form ad revenue-sharing program, YouTube Shorts has already lured over TikTok creators. It's even gotten major stars like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift to promote music on Shorts. This is likely where YouTube has the best bet of taking TikTok’s audience. Since TikTok has become deeply intertwined with the music industry, Shorts might be primed to take its spot. And with its new feature that creates compiles all the videos using a specific song, Shorts is likely hoping to capture musicians looking to promote their work.


The most blatant attempt at seducing TikTok users, however, comes from Triller, which launched a portal for people to move their videos from TikTok to its platform. It’s simple, but likely the most effective tactic—and one that other short-form video platforms should try to replicate. With TikTok users worried about losing their backlog of content, this not only lets users archive but also bolsters Triller’s content offerings. The problem, of course, is that Triller isn’t nearly as well known as the other platforms also trying to capture TikTok users. Still, those who are in the know will likely find this option easier than manually re-uploading content to other sites.

It's likely that many of these platforms will see a momentary boost if the TikTok ban goes through. But all of these companies need to ensure that users coming from TikTok actually stay on their platforms. Considering that they have already been upended by one newcomer when TikTok took over, there’s good reason to believe that a new app could come in and swoop up TikTok’s user base. As of right now, it's unclear who will come out on top. But the true loser is the user who has to adhere to the everyday whims of each of these platforms.


We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

We Asked Our Readers How They’re Using AI in a Professional Setting. Here's What They Said
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According to Pew Research data, 27% of Americans interact with AI on a daily basis. With the launch of Open AI’s latest language model GPT-4, we asked our readers how they use AI in a professional capacity. Here’s what they told us:

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