Since its launch, Quibi has been beaten by a slew of disappointing news. The app faltered early in the top 50 most downloaded within a week of launch, and only attracted about 1.5 million active users at the end of May, according to Wall Street. Newspaper – a drop in the bucket compared to more than 50 million. subscribers attracted to Disney +, which launched in December 2019, and the 183 million global Netflix users (Quibi is only available in the U.S. and Canada). Most of these users benefited from the free trial of the service, which ends this month (a Quibi subscription costs $ 4.99 per month with ads and $ 7.99 per month without). The company plans to reach just 2 million paying customers by the end of the year, less than 30% of its target of 7.4 million subscribers for the first year.
The much smaller than expected subscriber base left the billion dollar experience short of cash; the Journal reported that Quibi was on track for spending $ 1 billion by the end of the third quarter of 2020 and although it raised an additional $ 750 million earlier this year, it would still need 200 million dollars in new funds by the second half of 2021 to stay afloat. Meanwhile, leading advertising partners such as Pepsi, Taco Bell, Anheuser-Busch and WalMart were looking to renegotiate their agreements with Quibi based on the pandemic successes of their business and the less promised audience of Quibi.
Meanwhile, several unflattering reports have portrayed internal conflicts behind the scenes. The Wall Street Journal has detailed the longstanding friction between Katzenberg and Whitman’s working relationship. Its brand marketing chief Megan Imbres left in April – another high-level executive exit following the departure of daily content manager Janice Min and Tim Connolly, chief of partnerships and advertising, last year . According to page six, employees boiled Reese Witherspoon’s $ 6 million salary for voice over work on six-minute episodes of the nature series Fierce Queens, as Quibi’s poor performance threatened layoffs. (Witherspoon’s husband Jim Toth is responsible for the acquisition of talent and content in the company.) Quibi’s “Turnstyle” technology, which allowed content to switch from portrait to landscape and vice versa on your phone, is tied to a patent lawsuit with a deep-pocket hedge fund.
The bad press filled a void on Quibi’s actual content, despite a list of more than 50 original shows unveiled during its trial period, which the company itself seems to recognize: “See guys, we have a good show”, the Quibi account tweeted with a positive story about the most dangerous game, a film with Liam Hemsworth divided into chapters – an ironic admission of a service whose inherent lack of sharing (the app did not allow screenshots, excluding memes) stifled the potential good buzz.
Katzenberg blamed Quibi’s struggles over the pandemic – and, to be honest, that did not help the deployment of a mobile service only designed for the interstitial moments of the harassed week and endowed with the power of celebrity names to launch at a time when Americans were quarantined with their TVs while celebrity culture was burning. But attributing all of Quibi’s problems to the pandemic is “spurious,” said Daniel D’Addario, Variety’s chief television critic, who reviewed the first list of Quibi series. The overall content celebrity strategy – Reese Witherspoon narrating a place on the empowerment of cheetah women called Fierce Queens, Chrissy Teigen as judge Judy at the relations court – was “particularly ill-suited at this time,” said he told the Guardian, but “the format would always have been a disaster.”
Theoretically, Quibi sought to industrialize a new frontier in television: short stories – that is, episodes of 15 minutes or less – shortest and longest. The concept is not entirely new to Hollywood – Netflix originals such as Special, Bonding and the sketch series I Think You Should Leave, as well as Nick Hornby’s State of the Union on Sundance TV, zipped in 15-minute episodes – and have long been the staple of YouTubers and creators on low budgets (think of Issa Rae’s YouTube mini-series, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, its precursor to the HBO Insecure series). But Quibi’s pitch was nothing less than redefining Hollywood’s entertainment unit for the “quick bite.” “In five years, we want to return to this scene and if we have succeeded, there will have been the cinema era, the television era and the Quibi era,” Katzenberg told a crowd of South by Southwest in 2019. “What Google should be looking for, Quibi will be to make a short video. ”
But in practice, Quibi’s content was less revolutionary than the slamming and slamming concepts that struck the viewer with blows from celebrities. The general theme was “celebrity names without thinking about what they would do, what is interesting or new,” said D’Addario. His chunk movies and unscripted deals seemed “under-nourishing,” added D’Addario, and offered few marginal benefits at the free celebrity rate on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or TikTok. Why pay for Quibi, when “if you want Chrissy Teigen content to snack on, her social media offers it without that kind of first-class courtroom setup.”
The Quibi experience was much less fresh thanks to the numerous obstacles integrated into the service: first and foremost, the only mobile limitation, which prevented viewing on a larger screen and also the possibility of text, scrolling or Multitasking while watching the content threw on our fractured focus. The imposition of Quibi on mobile only has particularly hampered service, as many Americans have been quarantined at home with the option of larger screens and ever-changing streaming services – Netflix and Hulu, of course, as well as Disney +, Apple TV + and the new HBO Max – to fill them. .
Quibi’s business model assumed an endless appetite for entertainment until our death, but his mandates, in the form of a paid subscription only on mobile, included the very important choice of consumers accustomed to frantic fun, constantly refreshing and growing on demand and on phones. with Youtube and TikTok, for free. “We are in a world where viewers expect to have control over what, when, where, how they view content, and Quibi has taken a lot out of them,” said Goodman.
With the end of the three-month trial, can Quibi turn around? “They learn that the decisions they expected not to make are not the things consumers want,” said Goodman, who noted the sometimes good service content as an argument for it; D’Addario highlighted Quibi’s more silly and confusing unscripted options – Dishmantled, a cooking competition organized by Tituss Burgess, and the queer culture competition Gayme Show – as promising ideas for an app that becomes less laughable the more it looks at a pleasure without gravity and without burden.
Ironically, Quibi’s saving grace may lie in going back on what was supposed to be its breakthrough: the new short, mobile-only service of wars streaming. Quibi has previously said to move away from the mobile part because the company is in talks with Amazon Fire and Roku to bring the app to TV. And Quibi could move away from the hard 10-minute ceilings, allowing viewers to segment shows as they see fit and creators more leeway. Which means Quibi’s survival might not depend on becoming the new Netflix, but becoming Netflix – perhaps a hard-to-swallow pill for a service aimed at becoming its own verb for a short visualization. “They’re learning that the decisions they expected to hang on to are not the things consumers want,” said Goodman. “It is not a pandemic issue – it is a question of: do consumers want it?” “