Katzenberg blames Covid for Quibi fail, others disagree

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“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to Coronavirus. Everything. But we own it,” Jeffrey Katzenberg told The New York Times as he lamented the poor start for Quibi, his smartphone short-form play. “Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch? The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted.”

Quibi said it has been downloaded 3.5 million times to date, with 1.3 million active users, far short of its target to attract seven million users in its first year.

Danyaal Rashid, Thematic Analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData, suggests other factors should also be taken into account. “Quibi has undoubtedly been hurt by Covid-19,” he accepts. “The platform is tailored to commuters and ‘on-the-go’ viewing. With people forced to stay at home because of the lockdown, it is understandable that it did not live up to expectations. However, Quibi’s co-founder Jeffrey Katzenburg’s comments that Quibi’s faltering performance is solely attributable to Covid-19, are simply not true. The inability of management to adapt to Covid-19 set it on this path to failure,” he contends.

“According to Quibi, the platform has over 3.5 million downloads in its first month, yet just 1.3 million active users. This pales in comparison to some of the streaming behemoths – Disney+ received ten million downloads in its first 24 hours. The streaming industry is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Covid-19 lockdown – Netflix doubled its new subscribers in Q1 2020 to 15.8 million, almost entirely due to bored people stuck at home. Some would argue that this is the perfect time to release a new streaming platform, and I’d be inclined to agree,” he says.

“Quibi’s failure is due to its restrictive nature,” suggests Rashid. “The platform only supports mobile viewing and short-form video; the content library is weak compared to larger streamers; and at $7.99 (€9.05) a month, it is expensive – Disney+ is just $6.99 a month. Quibi lacked the dynamism to adapt to Covid-19. Users want to binge their favourite shows on the big screen –a problem Quibi faced even without the perils of Covid-19,” he notes.

“Quibi has now announced that it will support the casting to TV screens, which will go some way to correct its self-imposed flaws. However, much remains to be done, just as lockdown restrictions are easing. If Quibi is increasingly streamed to TVs, it will become a more natural competitor to the streaming giants. However, the firm does not have the library to compete, especially at such an expensive price-point. Quibi may need to reduce its price and introduce long-form content to compete, but this risks losing the very thing that seemed to set Quibi apart in the first place,” he warns.

Quibi always looks like an uphill proposition: Read Nick Snow’s Quibi quibbles blog published April 9th.


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