Quibi shuts down following lockdown marketing misstep

Launching in lockdown has proved a fatal miscalculation for mobile centric streaming service Quibi.

Six months ago, at the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown, veteran execs Jaffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman boldly opted to launch a mobile-centric streaming service called Quibi.

Spurred by a clear consumer demand for short-bite TikTok-esque content, the pair rapidly sunk a whopping $1.8 billion into both capital and star power including $63 million on advertising alone. However, after less than a year in the wild and ‘exhausting all available options’, Quibi today joins a long list of failed streaming ventures as one of the shortest-lived to date, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Back in June, we at Thred predicted that Quibi would struggle to achieve its lofty ambition of ‘ushering in a third film narrative’ designed for and exclusive to mobile phones. Mere months into launch it was failing to meet even 30% of its expected viewership, and we deduced that Quibi was probably more likely to be fighting obscurity than breaking boundaries in the back end of 2020.

But, with such huge financial backing, we didn’t see seniors willing to throw in the towel so early.

After all, the initial signs for Quibi were unerringly positive. It had secured a roster of big-name talent to bring real gravitas to its original content, including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez, , Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Sophie Turner, and Laurence Fighburne – whose lead role in police drama #FreeRayshawn even secured an Emmy award win for the platform.

The unique idea of hosting quality short-form chapters no longer than 10 minutes, specifically designed for viewing on a smartphone was certainly an appealing one and possibly a few better marketing decisions away from becoming a hit with Gen Z. Sadly, company eagerness seemed to override what should have been a measured approach in the build up to launch.

Former eBay chief Meg Whitman had cleverly peddled Quibi as the ‘ultimate on-the-go diversion’ for commuters wanting to consume top-notch content in a short space of time, which perfectly aligned with Gen Z’s busy lifestyle and notoriously short attention spans, but when lockdown hit Quibi’s ethos was radically spun to push the launch within an entirely different landscape.

In April, seniors proclaimed Quibi as a ‘distraction to bring relief to those looking to escape from the realities of COVID-19,’ pitting it squarely against longform streaming giants Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, who were reporting spikes in engagement with the new captive audience. Industry concerns that 10-minute snippets probably wouldn’t cut it with people looking to fill their days quickly rang true.

A report from app tracking firm Sensor Tower in July claimed that Quibi lost over 90% of its subscribers after the initial three-month trial ran out, with as few as 70,000 of its roughly 910,000 viewer base sticking around to pay monthly fees of either $4.99 (with ads) or $7.99 (ad free).

What will happen to Quibi’s expensive line-up of star-studded shows and miniature films remains to be seen, but with such a meagre turn out in terms of revenue and viewing figures there aren’t too many hungry suitors right now.

It’s a grave shame really. On paper, Quibi and Gen Z seemed a real match made in heaven, but it appears the decision to launch in lockdown was the crucial misstep that killed the project stone dead.

RIP Quibi.

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