Will there be ads?
Yes, and this is one of the reasons everyone's so hyped about the app. Since June 2019, Quibi has gone from relative "What's this again?" obscurity to the New Thing that everyone wants a piece of -- including (and this is the crucial part) lots of advertisers. Katzenberg and Whitman took the project to the 2019 Cannes Lions, a "festival" of "creativity," and met with a number of ad agencies about investing in the app. They've announced "strategic launch partners," which includes Google, PepsiCo, and T-Mobile, and sold their entire $150 million first-year inventory as of October 2019, according to Variety. The app will share information like the age and gender ranges of their subscribers, as well as where they live, with advertisers, but claims to keep everyone's personal information, like names and device IDs, private.
Katzenberg explained that some commercials will be broken up into smaller "chapters" that'll follow the viewer around as they watch Quibi's content. He also mentioned that they're looking at developing commercials as long as five minutes that the user can save to a watchlist for later viewing. Companies have experimented with longer-form ad storytelling before, like BMW did with their star-studded shorts series "The Hire," which was directed by everyone from Wong Kar-wai to Neill Blomkamp. Quibi's ad structure sounds like it could look something like that.
This is the kind of thing that everyone but Netflix pretty much has to do to stay afloat and be able to afford people like Spielberg and Teigen, and this is why a lot of streamers end up having to shut down or cancel their most expensive endeavors -- like DC Universe recently had to do with Swamp Thing. At some point, unless you're willing to risk a massive amount of debt, the business becomes unsustainable if you don't have the funds. Quibi laying down a creative system for integrating advertising into their platform right out of the gate with investors like WarnerMedia, Viacom, NBCUniversal, and Sony, means that they'll have a better shot at surviving.