It’s probably too early to call Quibi a total flop, but even its own founder is acknowledging things aren’t great right now.
Despite dropping a massive $1.75 billion on advertising (including a Super Bowl commercial) and an absolutely star-studded list of actors, the short-form video service isn’t seeing the subscribers they hoped for.
Quibi debuted in early April and saw 1.7 million downloads the first week, passing expectations. But critics quickly took note when, less than a week into their launch, the service said they were soon adding television support. It seems like a natural feature to have, but Quibi was adamantly mobile-only from inception, so it was somewhat alarming to see them change course so quickly.
The service started with a far longer than usual free trial period of 90 days, which has now been reduced to 14 days. Only a month in though, Quibi has 1.3 million active users despite having been downloaded more than 3 million times. That means there’s a good chance every user is still on a free subscription and two-thirds of them have left anyway.
Maybe a streaming video service with 10-minute videos designed for people on the go launching at a time when absolutely nobody is on the go isn’t the best of ideas it turns out.
But in an interview with the New York Times this week, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg placed the blame squarely on the COVID-19 outbreak. Despite the fact that streaming is seeing record numbers and Netflix and other services are encountering record use, Katzenberg said “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything.” He went on to say launching when he did was a mistake.
As Quibi flounders, the company is shaking things up in hopes of reviving the service. They’ve started promoting individual shows instead of the service overall (a curious decision to start with given the massive appeal of stars producing content for them), they’ve added television streaming (but only for iPhone users – Android still has to wait a few weeks), and they’ve made some content available on social media outside their app. But they’ve yet to see an impact on users.
While the coronavirus outbreak probably didn’t help Quibi, their quirky format was probably their biggest downfall. Will some people be interested? For sure. It’s clear that people have room for many, many streaming services in their lineups, and Quibi’s star power coupled with short-burst chapters may have been enough to attract eyeballs. But locking content to a cell phone was a big stumble and one that may have been too big to overcome.
For our full review of Quibi, including pricing and features, click here.
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