Increasing numbers of people are watching shows on their mobile devices, but content is still being made primarily for larger canvases, like movie screens or home TVs.
Blackpills, a mobile streaming platform launched this spring for scripted short-form shows, is doing precisely the opposite and building its bite-sized content — with episodes running around 10 minutes long — specifically for mobile devices.
“For us, the question is, how do you optimize storytelling for mobile?” said vice-president of production Lorne Hiltser.
“How do you try and engage someone? How do you captivate someone in a new world with new characters when they’re looking at their phone? When I’m looking at my phone, I’m uniquely aware that I can also see my foot.”
“How do you captivate someone in a new world with new characters when they’re looking at their phone?”
This question of engagement feeds into the selection of the over 50 shows that Blackpills is now gradually debuting on its platform.
From James Franco’s former AOL series Making a Scene, which features comedic recreations of famous cinema scenes, to Junior (shown above), a drama that centers on a love triangle between a mom, her boyfriend and her daughter, the shows are nothing if not provocative.
Hiltser says the focus is not on edginess for edginess’ sake, however, but rather on creating engaging shows that have themes pertinent to the current zeitgeist.
“We’re experimental,” says Hiltser. “We will push the boundaries, we’re not afraid to tell stories if we find them relevant.”
The pacing at which original content is released also adds incentive for users to tune in to Blackpills. There are currently 20 series available on the app, with a new one debuting each week at the rate of one episode per day.
“People want something all the time. They want to look at something every day, several times a day. How many times do you look at Instagram or Facebook? If we’re making something for mobile, we feel we need a continuous feed for the audience,” says Hiltser.
“People want something all the time. They want to look at something every day, several times a day.”
The app is available for free through the Google Play Store and App Store in Canada, and currently exists without the hindrance of ads, a rare thing for a new video platform.
Hiltser refrained from commenting on the company’s broader revenue model, but mentioned the platform is partially supported by ads through its Vice Video partnership, not available to Canadians.
When questioned about whether short video content might take over from longer forms in the future, Hiltser said he ultimately believes there is room for both.
“I don’t think there’s a battle between short form content and long form content,” says Hiltser. “To me, it’s more apt to say that there’s a need and a hunger for content in different ways.”