Why is Quibi shutting down: another victim of COVID or failure in marketing

“Quibi: Coming To A Phone Near You” commercial © Quibi

$1.75 billion investment. Project leadership from entertainment industry heavyweight Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman. Involvement of top Hollywood talent — Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Jennifer Lopez and Kevin Hart — to produce exclusive short-form content.

During the six months it existed, short video platform Quibi won two of the ten Emmy awards for which it was nominated. Yet according to The Verge it lost 90% of early subscribers and has now been closed. Why did it fail? Startup co-founders answer the question themselves.

Nobody knew what Quibi’s content was before its launch

“We’re not Facebook Watch. We’re not Snapchat. We’re not Instagram TV. We’re not YouTube”, — Meg Whitman, August 2019

“What Is Quibi?”. The infamous commercial has Kiefer Sutherland and Darren Criss staring blankly at the camera, telling dad jokes and unable to explain what exactly Quibi is. Marketers tried to make Quibi look different from the competition but said nothing to its potential customer about the product. Disney+ showed launch trailers with the snippets of Mandalorian, while Apple TV+ hyped The Morning Show with Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell. Quibi, on the other hand, focused only on the format, not the content it was going to show.

Quibi was limited to a mobile app only

“Quibi is going after consumers’ “in-between moments” whether that be waiting at a doctor’s office or standing in line for a cup of coffee”, — Meg Whitman, October 2019

Quibi hired Steven Spielberg and Catherine Hardwicke to create premium content worth $100,000 per minute. Is it possible, however, to appreciate the production quality of “Game of Thrones” or “Sense8” on a small smartphone screen? As media analyst Michael Goodman told CNN Business: “Being a mobile-only streaming service was always a risky bet. Most services are multi-platform and consumers have made it clear that they don’t want to be dictated to in how they watch entertainment.”

There was a lack of well-known franchises in the Quibi library

“We came to market with no library, no legacy product and we’re starting from scratch”, — Meg Whitman, May 2020

When it launched, it was a risky move for Quibi to join the streaming competition with a lack of famous franchises in its portfolio, together with completely new content and no advertising.

COVID-19

“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. But once daily life returns to normal, people will go back to using their phones”, — Jeffrey Katzenberg, May 2020, one month after Quibi launched

The founders decided not to delay the launch of “on the go” video service in the midst of the corona outbreak. When everyone was at home.

Nobody understood what Quibi was, creators in particular

“The idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service”, — Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, October 2020, six months after Quibi launched

It was a weak solution to release a service that was incompatible with the realities of a pandemic, with all costs considered and with a marketing campaign that focused on format rather than content.

As for the idea of Quibi, Jeffrey Katzenberg said in October 2019: “You put your earbuds in and you have a connection with that content that is actually amazing.” Consider, however, “The Matrix” divided into 15 episodic chunks. Would it really be good to immerse yourself for each seven-minute episode while you waited for a meeting to begin or on a smoke break? Or would TikTok be a more enticing prospect?

Molfar is a research company specialized in business partner background checks and market research. We make short profiles of a person or company within one or two days to help businesses identify risks.

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Competitive analysis, pre-due diligence. Personnel screening. Market research. https://molfar.global/