Remember Quibi? I feel like I need to keep reminding everyone that it’s a real thing because it still feels like something made up by The Onion or an episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley. It’s the streaming service that nobody asked for, made by people who seem to have no idea what they’re doing, and funded by investors who would be wiser to put their billions into money furnaces or donating them to the wallet inspector. Bless. I thought I would have to wait years before I got all the juicy details on this strange creature’s inevitable failure, but nope, we’re getting all the dirt in real-time.
According to Variety, the Quibi app has about 4.5 million installs to date since its launch on April 6th. That’s… not great? It certainly falls below the company’s initial target of 7.4 million paying subscribers in its first year. We wrote before about a report by The Wall Street Journal that noted how daily download numbers had never exceeded more than 400k in one day and that those numbers had never exceeded 20k a day for the entire month of June. Now, Variety adds that, among users who signed up for the free 90-day trial when Quibi launched, only 8% of them opted to actually pay for the service, which is $4.99 a month with ads or $7.99 a month without. Variety writes, ‘If that 8% conversion rate holds, that would yield a paying base of 360,000 customers for Quibi from the current group of user signups — a major disappointment for the startup.’
Think about it: It’s not just that people didn’t want to pay for Quibi. It’s that they disliked the service enough to actively cancel their subscription rather than being lazy and just letting it roll onto automatic payment after three months, which is what most companies like this do to pump up their numbers. THAT’S how little people care about Quibi. It’s not even good enough to be apathetic about.
This news came only a few days after a piece in Vulture dug deeper into why Quibi just isn’t taking off as CEOs Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman hoped. I heartily recommend you read the whole thing to get the full picture of just how messy this entire enterprise has been from the get-go. My personal favorite moment comes when Gal Gadot reportedly ‘delivered an impassioned speech about wanting to elevate the voices of girls and women’ then Katzenberg wanted to know if she’d do a workout series for the platform. Nice work there, Jeff.
Quibi’s problems continue to be the exact same ones everyone had predicted the platform would face when it was announced. Katzenberg and Whitman greatly exaggerated how many people would be willing to pay $5 a month with ads for mobile-exclusive programming under 10 minutes an episode. Their exclusive programming choices didn’t grab audiences’ attention, and it didn’t help that there was no way to share said content on social media to help build much-needed buzz, except for that one time we all laughed at Rachel Brosnahan’s golden arm.
Losing my fucking MIND at this Quibi show where actual Emmy winner Rachel Brosnahan plays a woman obsessed with her golden arm pic.twitter.com/rSfqCv75SG— Zach Raffio (@zachraffio) April 15, 2020
Katzenberg was a big shot in Hollywood for a long time but working with a big studio catering to traditional movie markets is a whole different ballgame to streaming, especially streaming in 2020 when younger viewers are changing the game with their own creations. Katzenberg brags that Quibi spends $100,000 a minute on content but that doesn’t make it better. Frankly, it’s more fun and inventive to see what’s on TikTok or YouTube.
Quibi continues to push the blame for their own hubris. It’s the pandemic’s fault they’re not doing well but it’s also totally the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests’ fault too. The service is continuing to hype up new programming, from an Anna Kendrick sex doll black comedy to a drama series about Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel to an adaptation of horror manga writer Junji Ito’s Tomie (which, in my opinion, seems like it could be a really good fit for a mobile-only platform, if only because it increases the scare factor if you have to hold the device in your hand and close to your face to see what happens.) Still, at a time of continuing Peak TV and the increasing threat of Peak Streaming Services, Quibi never felt like a real player in the game.
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