The fall of Quibi: how did a starry $1.75bn Netflix rival crash so fast? | Television – Blog – 10 minute

Nearly three months ago, in early April, the $1.75bn content experiment known as Quibi lurched from its rocky, much-maligned promotional campaign into full-scale launch. The service offered a tsunami of celebrity-fronted shows segmented into “quick bites” (hence, “qui-bi”) of 10 minutes or less – a Joe Jonas talk show, a documentary on LeBron James’s I Promise school, a movie with Game of Thrones’s Sophie Turner surviving a plane crash, all straight to your phone. At the time, many of us wondered if Quibi could deliver on its central promise – to refashion the style of streaming into “snackable” bites – or if, teetering under the weight of its massive funding and true who’s who of talent as the world shut down, it would become shorthand for an expensive mistake.
The service, the brainchild of the DreamWorks Animation cofounder Jeffrey Katzenberg and the former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman – two billionaires deeply entrenched in Hollywood and Silicon Valley establishment – was “either going to be a huge home run or a massive swing and a miss,” Michael Goodman, a media analyst with Strategy Analytics, told the Guardian. Given a string of bad news since its 6 April launch – missed targets, executive departures, Katzenberg singularly blaming the pandemic – and the sunset of its 90-day free trial with millions less subscribers than anticipated, the scales seemed decidedly tipped toward swing and miss. But while it’s too soon to declare the end of Quibi, it’s still worth asking: is the promise of the quick bite already over? And what went so wrong?
Since its launch, Quibi has been a battered by a slew of disappointing news. The app staggered early, falling out of the top 50 most downloaded within a week of its launch, and only attracted about 1.5m active users by the end of May, according to the Wall Street Journal – a drop in the bucket compared to over 50m subscribers drawn to Disney+, which launched in December 2019, and Netflix’s whopping 183m global users (Quibi is only available in the US and Canada). Most of those users were on the service’s free trial, which ends this month (a Quibi subscription is $4.99 a month with ads and $7.99 a month without). The company anticipates landing just 2m paying customers by the end of the year, less than 30% of its first-year target of 7.4m subscribers.
The much smaller than anticipated subscriber base left the billion-dollar experiment cash-strapped; the Journal reported that Quibi was on track to have spent $1bn by the end of the third quarter of 2020 and though it raised an additional $750m earlier this year, would require another $200m of new funding by the second half of 2021 to stay afloat. Meanwhile, tentpole advertising partners such as Pepsi, Taco Bell, Anheuser-Busch and WalMart were seeking to renegotiate their agreements with Quibi based on pandemic hits to their business and Quibi’s less-than-promised viewership.

A still of Chrissy Teigen in Chrissy’s Court on Quibi. Photograph: Quibi
Meanwhile, several unflattering reports have depicted internal strife behind the scenes. The Wall Street Journal detailed longstanding friction between Katzenberg and Whitman’s working relationship. Its head of brand marketing, Megan Imbres, departed in April – another high profile executive exit after the departures of the head of daily content Janice Min and Tim Connolly, the head of partnerships and advertising, last year. Staffers reportedly “seethed” at Reese Witherspoon’s $6m salary for voiceover work on six-minute episodes of the nature series Fierce Queens as Quibi’s poor performance threatened layoffs, according to Page Six. (Witherspoon’s husband Jim Toth is the head of talent and content acquisition at the company.) Quibi’s signature “Turnstyle” technology, which allowed content to flow from portrait view to landscape and back again seamlessly on your phone, is tied up in a patent lawsuit with a deep-pocketed hedge fund.
The bad press has filled a void of commentary on Quibi’s actual content, despite a slate of 50 plus original shows unveiled in its trial period, which the company itself seems to acknowledge: “see guys, we have a good show,” the Quibi account tweeted with a positive story about the Most Dangerous Game, a movie starring Liam Hemsworth broken into chapters – a tongue-in-cheek admission from a service whose inherent lack of share-ability (the app did not allow screenshots, precluding memes) stifled potential good buzz.
Katzenberg has blamed Quibi’s struggles on the pandemic – and, to be fair, it did not help the rollout of a mobile-only service designed for the harried weekday’s interstitial moments and bannered with celebrity name power to launch at a time when Americans were quarantined with their TVs as celebrity culture burned. But to attribute all of Quibi’s issues to the pandemic is “fallacious”, said Daniel D’Addario, the chief television critic at Variety who reviewed Quibi’s debut slate of series. The content’s blanket strategy of celebrity – Reese Witherspoon narrating a spot about cheetah female empowerment called Fierce Queens, Chrissy Teigen as Judge Judy in relationship court – was “uniquely poorly suited to this moment” he told the Guardian, but “the format would’ve always been a disaster”.
Notionally, Quibi endeavored to industrialize a new frontier of television: short-form narratives – that is, episodes of 15 minutes or less – at its shortest and most expansive. The concept is not entirely new to Hollywood – Netflix originals such as Special, Bonding, and the sketch comedy series I Think You Should Leave, as well as Nick Hornby’s State of the Union on Sundance TV, zipped in 15 minutes episodes – and has long been the staple of YouTubers and creators on short budgets (think Issa Rae’s Youtube mini-series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, her precursor to the HBO series Insecure). But Quibi’s pitch was no less than redefining the unit of corporate Hollywood entertainment to the “quick bite”. “Five years from now, we want to come back on this stage and if we were successful, there will have been the era of movies, the era of television and the era of Quibi,” Katzenberg told a crowd at South by Southwest in 2019. “What Google is to search, Quibi will be to short-form video.”
But in practice, Quibi’s content felt less revolutionary than underbaked, slapdash concepts sledgehammering the viewer with abrupt hits of celebrity. The overarching theme was of “celebrity names without thinking through what they would be doing that is interesting or novel”, said D’Addario. Its chunked movies and unscripted offerings felt “under-nourishing”, D’Addario added, and offered little marginal benefit to the free celebrity fare on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or TikTok. Why pay for Quibi, when “if you want snackable Chrissy Teigen content, her social media provides that for you without this sort of hackneyed, first-thought courtroom set-up.”

Liam Hemsworth in Most Dangerous Game. Photograph: Quibi
The Quibi experience has been decidedly less than fresh thanks to numerous hurdles built into the service: first and foremost, the mobile-only limitation, which precluded viewing on a bigger screen and also the ability to text, scroll, or multi-task while watching the content pitched to our fractured attention spans. Quibi’s mobile-only imposition especially hampered the service as many Americans quarantined at home with the option of larger screens and ever-growing streaming services – Netflix and Hulu, obviously, 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 we die, but its mandates, short-form, mobile-only, paid subscription, subsumed the all-important choice from consumers used to frenetic, constantly refreshing and expanding amusement on demand and on phones with Youtube and TikTok, for free. “We’re in a world where the viewer expects to have control over the what, the when, the where, the how they’re going to watch content, and Quibi has taken a lot of that away from them,” said Goodman.
With the three-month trial ending, can Quibi turn the ship around? “They’re learning that the decisions that they expected to hang their hat on are not the things that consumers want,” said Goodman, who noted the service’s sometimes quality content as a point in its favor; D’Addario pointed to Quibi’s sillier, confectionary unscripted options – Dishmantled, a cooking competition hosted by Tituss Burgess, and queer culture competition Gayme Show – as promising ideas for an app that gets less risible the more it leans into unserious, unburdened fun.
Quibi’s saving grace may lie, ironically, in reneging on what was supposed to be its breakthrough: the streaming wars’ novel mobile-only, short-form service. Quibi has already indicated a move away from the mobile-only part, as 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 caps, allowing viewers to segment the shows as they please and creators more wiggle room. Which means Quibi’s survival might not depend on becoming the new Netflix, but becoming Netflix – perhaps a tough pill to swallow for a service aiming to become its own verb for short viewing. “They’re learning that the decisions that they expected to hang their hat on are not the things that consumers want,” Goodman said. “It’s not a question of pandemic – it’s a question of: do consumers want it?”

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Marketers have bought into Quibi but will audiences follow Katzenberg’s mobile dream?- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

Before Jeffrey Katzenberg’s shortform TV project Quibi finally launched this week, leading brands had bought into the Dreamworks founder’s dream. It shifted one year’s worth of North American ad inventory ($150m) before the public had even appraised the platform, but will audiences be as impressed with the so-called ‘next generation of content’?
Katzenberg has hedged $1.75bn of funding on his instinct that there is demand for a mobile-first streaming service with ‘quick bite’ storytelling. Talent like Christoph Waltz, Liam Hemsworth, Idris Elba, LeBron James, Sophie Turner and Will Arnett are among those leading some 50 exclusive shows on launch.
There’s a mix of scripted and unscripted gems from the depths of Hollywood, across a broad spectrum of genre and appeal. TMZ gossip sits alongside BBC News reports and among the expected dramas and high-concept vehicles are some unconventional launches. Tituss Burgess has people eat exploded food in Dishmantled, nature documentary meets reality TV-pacing in Fierce Queens, and there’s Gayme Show, a gay game show aping the reality TV tension of Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
Around three hours of cumulative content will appear daily, with each Quibi lasting up to ten minutes. The aim is to have 175 shows available by the year’s end.
These are available to most mobile users; the app is on Android and iOS in most territories and isn’t beholden to the legacy rights concerns that the likes of Netflix face on a region-by-region basis.
What does the consumer get?

Jamie McGowan Stuart, a research analyst at Enders, is impressed with the design of the app and, in particular, its Turnstyle tech which optimises content for both vertical and horizontal viewing. But it is not perfect. “The inability to multitask could be a problem for on-the-go users, if they can’t keep audio playing when they have to switch between apps.”
Many will make the mistake of comparing Quibi to Netflix or an Amazon Prime Video. Instead it is largely competing against mobile-first content, which is typically user-generated. As McGowan Stuart puts it, “it’s big-budget, traditional programming but in a mobile-only context. It’s not competing for the television set.”
Quibi describes itself as perfect viewing for anything between “coffee time, a daily skincare routine, or even bathroom breaks”. As such, it is more likely to be competing with TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat TV.
It takes time to build a customer base. The lockdown has millions hungry for content. But the app, designed for busy people on-the-go, might find that the lockdown prevents these habits from forming in the short-term.
Quibi is being shipped with 90-day free trials to hook users. It has a “huge” marketing campaign behind it (most of its trailers on YouTube have secured millions of views). And in North America, where T-Mobile users get a free year, on-the-go streaming is very much in a carrier’s ballpark.
He concludes: “Whether users stick is another matter. Being new and mobile-first might be its differentiator for the moment, but without hits that could ultimately count for little.”
What marketers need to know

Liam Brennan, global director of innovation at Mediacom Blink, has been playing with the app for the last 24 hours.
He says it is “more Instagram than Netflix.” It is easy to navigate, and users can bookmark their favourite shows – if they can find one.
“At the moment it really lacks a buzzworthy show like a House of Cards, The Mandalorian or The Man in the High Castle to bring people in. It isn’t something I would pay $7.99 a month for.”
Brennan’s also worried that its mobile selling point might be a hindrance. “Its biggest flaw is its lack of a TV-sharing option. It is limiting opportunities within the living room where most streaming typically takes place.”
In the US, the service costs $4.99 a month with ads, or $7.99 without. On offer are six, 10 or 15-second pre-roll spots before the Quibi content streams. These are unskippable but only total 2.5 mins per hour; Katzenberg claims this is about 14% of what you’d see on typical TV in the US. It is yet to serve ads to international audiences – likely due to ad sales priorities than anything else. As a result the UK only has one tier available, at £7.99 a month.
In North America, Discover, General Mills, T-Mobile, Taco Bell, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, ABInBev, Walmart, Progressive and Google were among the first brands to invest into that $150m pot. The project has no issues drawing in digital spend from the biggest brands. They can expand ad spend internationally as required.
While legacy broadcast streaming operations like Hulu or Peacock offer a tiered system, a higher fee equals more, or more premium, content. Quibi is going in a different direction – their tiered system means consumers can have $3 off their monthly cost if they opt into ads. Netflix has often been linked with talks of advertising to offset its huge production and marketing costs. Brennan wonders if this will set a precedent for other services to follow, or whether the model will prove unsustainable in the long-run.
“Much of the ad-supported video market is free to users – take the Roku Channel which launched in the UK today as an example. It believes that there’s room for free viewing below paid.“
Regardless, there is a no doubt that a huge opportunity in this space exists. Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+ have been pulling audiences from elsewhere – but have no ad-products, and advertisers have been looking for an AVOD provider to fill this gap and help them reach streaming-only audience segments.
Brennan concludes: “Given that most streaming services are not ad-supported, Quibi provides a great opportunity for brands to reach a scaled audience in a new viewing environment and potentially improve costs.”

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Is Quibi about to change the face of mobile content?- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

That thing is Quick Bites. We’re not talking about grabbing lunch from Sainsburys (…or Planet Organic on payday) but about Quibi. A quirky name that obviously stands for Quick Bites once you know; however, what they are bringing to the world is something far more interesting than just a new way to watch content.
Quibi is all about storytelling made for your phone, from daily news essentials to ‘TV’ shows told in short chapters. It’s a subscription-based streaming app launching in April, and for five dollars a month you can be entertained, informed, and inspired whenever you have a few minutes to spare: “Quibi will present fresh content from today’s top talent – one quick bite at a time.” Your first thoughts may be to compare this to Netflix and all of the other streaming platforms out there, but the big Hollywood cats behind it (it’s founded by former Disney and DreamWorks top dog, Jeffrey Katzenberg) are insisting they are not even trying to compete with them. In an interview with The Verge, Jeffrey makes the point that “they’re all battling for this,” he says as he thrusts his arm toward a TV in the room. “We’re going for this,” he says, gesturing toward his phone. “Don’t tell them!” Ahhhhhhh, but Jeffrey, what about TikTok or Episodes or IGTV? People are already making stuff for our phones, Jeffrey!
Well, let’s not give him a hard time, he’s been making films and more since before most of us were born, and because of that, Quibi will be offering something that we haven’t really seen before. Unlike UGC platforms like Youtube and TikTok where the quality can be hit or miss, Quibi is creating their own content. They pride themselves on the fact that, whilst anyone in the world can make all sorts of creative content, they “make content for hundreds of dollars a minute. We make it for $100,000 a minute. It’s a whole different level — it’s Hollywood-quality content” (according to Tech Crunch). So this will be the big draw. It certainly makes sense for their scripted content, which Quibi claim to be an evolution of both film and television. Essentially, they have taken the format of an episodic TV series and combined it with the length of a feature film.
So instead of having 20 hours+ of TV, you get a two-hour-long film and you watch it like a TV show, in episodes of no longer than 10 minutes. How they make their unscripted and daily essential content feel more “Hollywood” than what is already out there remains to be seen. Regardless, it’s a pretty great idea for the moments we don’t have the time to sit down and watch a film or a TV episode. For most of us, the desire to watch something won’t go away even when we can’t watch a whole programme, so by offering a completely new form of content at a movie-theatre-level of quality that is incredibly easy to digest is a bit of a no-brainer.
It will be interesting to see if people actually want to pay for something they can only get on their phones. With your $5, you get all the content Quibi has to offer, yet the subscription service would still run ads. (You can, however, get rid of them for an extra $3.) It is a unique space and no doubt a lot of advertisers will flock to Quibi because it promises to be something excellent with the added bonus of having all of your Hollywood stars to see.
Gone are the days where film stars would never be on TV; actors are more open to new things these days because they know there are plenty of ways to tell a story. By attracting such big talent in front of the camera, and behind it, Quibi have made it very attractive to spend money on advertising. We would encourage our clients to go out and buy some of this ad space, but Quibi has sold out of its $150m first-year ad inventory before it has even launched. Maybe try again in 2021?
Altered advertising
Just as Quibi is an evolution of film and TV, maybe it can be for advertising too – the return of TVCs, perhaps?
A new kind, only shorter. “Katzenberg explained that some commercials will be broken up into smaller “chapters” that’ll follow the viewer around as they watch Quibi’s content,” according to Thrillist. “He also mentioned that they’re looking at developing commercials as long as five minutes that the user can save to a watchlist for later viewing.” Brands will want to keep the quality as close to Quibi’s offerings as possible which could mean larger budgets to make more exciting pieces. That’s just for scripted. Imagine the style of ads and content you could make (at various tiered budgets) for their documentary, reality, news and daily essentials channels.
Saving the best till last, Quibi has a very cool feature that opens up a whole new way of storytelling and how we create and view content. ‘Turnstyle’ lets users switch between portrait and landscape video instantly when they rotate their phones. Katzenberg says it “is unlike anything creators have had before.” Here’s the idea: rotating your phone while watching a show on Quibi will give you a different point of view. Every show (and ad) is filmed and edited in both portrait and landscape. Creators upload two video files and a separate audio file, which are then synced and streamed simultaneously to your phone, so the video instantly switches when you rotate the device. This is a very cool idea. It is often the case that the 9:16 versions can’t deliver the story it can in 16:9.
By thinking about these two aspect ratios together, we can craft better stories that work in either format. It is a creative choice and not a choice based on what platform it sits on and how it impacts views. We have more control over the audience experience too.
Jonny Ruff, creative producer at WING London.

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Quibi is partnering with the BBC on international news show for millennials – gpgmail

The BBC and Quibi are partnering to make a new daily international news show for millennials.

The two companies said that the new programming, which will be featured as part of Quibi’s “Daily Essentials” programming, will be filmed in the Beeb’s central London headquarters five days a week and each segment will be five minutes long.

The show aims to catch viewers up with all the news from around the world in five minutes, according to the two companies.

“Since the BBC began life as a start-up in 1922 we have been focused on two things: innovating to reach our audiences in new ways; and providing trustworthy news and entertainment of the highest quality,” said BBC Global News chief executive, Jim Egan in a statement. “Technology is changing constantly, as is the world at large and we’re delighted to be working with an innovative new player like Quibi to bring young audiences a daily made-for-mobile global news update of the highest quality from our unparalleled network of international correspondents and experts.”

The BBC also has news programming distributed on Snap and Facebook’s Instagram. So the company seems to be covering its bases to ensure it doesn’t miss out on the potential next big thing in media platforms.

“BBC News is one of the most respected news brands around the globe, and in particular for millennials in America today,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, founder and chairman of the board of Quibi. “We’re proud to partner with them to create a daily international news report for Quibi.”

The deal with the BBC follows a July announcement that Quibi had also hooked up with NBC News for programming. As we reported at the time, that deal includes a six-minute morning and evening news show for Quibi’s service.

NBC News also runs a Snapchat news show called Stay Tuned that reaches millions, and recently launched its own digital streaming news network, NBC News Now, delivered through its NBC app.

The mobile-only streaming service is set for an April 2020 launch, and has already announced a big slate of programming from top-tier filmmakers and actors.

Some of the highlights include commitments from filmmakers Sam Raimi, Guillermo del Toro and Antoine Fuqua and producer Jason Blum to create series for the service, plus a show called “Inspired By” with Justin Timberlake.

As we’ve reported, subscribers to Quibi can also expect a show about Snapchat’s founding, an action-thriller starring Liam Hemsworth, a murder mystery comedy from SNL’s Lorne Michaels, a beauty docuseries from Tyra Banks, a Steven Spielberg horror show, a comedy from Thomas Lennon, a car-stunt series with Idris Elba and more.

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