A mobile-only platform coupled with the uncertainty of the global pandemic led Quibi to its quick demise.
After just six months of existence, the short-form streaming service app Quibi announced on Wednesday it was shutting down. It entered an already-crowded field, competing with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video (among many others) for a user base geared at mobile-only subscribers.
“Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did. Our failure was not for lack of trying; we’ve considered and exhausted every option available to us,” wrote founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman in an official announcement.
Quibi’s Big Idea
Quibi entered the streaming market in April, promising to stand out with “a new form of mobile-first premium storytelling.” The app raked in $1.75 billion in funding and contracted celebrities for some of its “quick bites,” including Steven Spielberg, LeBron James, and Chrissy Teigen.
The streaming service promised exclusive videos—all 10 minutes or less—that subscribers could watch on their mobile devices for either $5 or $8 a month. There were shows about food exploding in people’s faces, a series centered around flipping homes where heinous murders occurred, and #FreeRayshawn, a short about a Black Iraq war veteran that won two short-form acting Emmy Awards, according to Variety.
Despite the unique concept and professional studio-produced shows, Quibi just couldn’t quite nail the execution of its ideas.
“Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing,” Katzenberg and Whitman added.
Things Could Have Gone Better
Quibi was quick to crash and burn, and many experts predicted its demise from the very beginning. Michel Wedel, a Distinguished University Professor and PepsiCo Chair in Consumer Science at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said that ultimately Quibi’s launch failed to deliver.
“In general, the pandemic was one of the problems that they were having, but at the same time, I think they had a number of other problems during the launch that were not sufficiently thought through that essentially caused the low-interest levels,” Wedel told Lifewire in a phone interview.
So, where exactly did Quibi go wrong? Wedel says that the app put too much stake into targeting people on the go, such as commuters or people traveling. Once the pandemic hit and more people stayed at home, Wedel said Quibi’s mobile-only model should have shifted.
“The app was not available on any other platforms, and that doesn’t seem to be a very good strategy, he said. “Nowadays, consumers like to switch between watching things on their phone, the TV, and their computer.”
The streaming service tried to salvage itself in its final days by announcing its move to the TV screen by becoming available on Apple TV, Android TV devices, and the Amazon Fire TV and Fire stick. However, Wedel said that it would have helped them in the beginning if they offered these other outlets right away.
Another downfall of Quibi was its confidence in its turnstyle video technology. Subscribers could watch Quibi content from different angles, depending on how they rotated their phones. Wedel said that while it was an innovative idea, the average subscriber cared more about the content they were watching than how they were watching it.
“People come for the content, not necessarily for the way you view it,” he said. “It might be a nice feature once you have it, but some users complained that some angles looked like a cropped version of the show.”
Users also frequently complained about the lack of being able to share Quibi’s content. Screenshotting was blocked on the app until recently, making it hard for users to share Quibi moments with friends, which ultimately could have brought in more users, Wedel said.
Wedel said Quibi’s downfall wasn’t its entrance into a crowded market, either; there is a massive trend towards short-form content that Quibi was known for.
“The attention span of consumers is decreasing, so people really don’t have the time or the desire to watch longer content,” he said. “I do believe the original concept was potentially successful and that there’s room for short-form content in the streaming service space.”
In the end, Quibi will go down in history as just another fatality of 2020, but keep an eye out: it very well may have paved the way for other short-form video platforms to succeed in the future.
[Photo: Attentie Attentie/Unsplash]