Quibi: A Failure Not Caused by the Pandemic

By Ariel Go
Technology and Innovation Writer

Short form content platform Quibi will not survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but for reasons beyond the pandemic itself. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters)

Former eBay CEO Meg Whiteman and TV mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg founded Quibi, a streaming platform that sought to revolutionize entertainment using short videos and films designed exclusively for mobile phones. Before the time of its launch, Quibi had raised $1.75 billion in capital from a group of media companies, investment banks, and individual backers including Walt Disney Co. and JP Morgan Chase & Co. The streaming platform debuted on April 6 during the pandemic, but after only six months, it announced it would halt operations and sell its content and technology assets. Quibi expects to shut down around December 1 due to its failure in gaining traction from their subscribers.

Since the streaming platform was introduced in April, during which the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to upend the world, the pandemic was heavily blamed for its rough start and failure. Quibi started off as the fourth ranked app in terms of number of downloads for iPhones, but its success was temporary. The week following its launch, Quibi lost its spot on the list of the top 50 most downloaded free apps for iPhones in the United States. In May, Katzenberg expressed his disappointment of those numbers claiming that “everything that has gone wrong” with the service was at the fault of the pandemic. Quibi was designed to deliver high-quality content divided into segments of five to ten minutes. This would allow people to get entertainment on the go, but due to coronavirus, many found themselves stuck at home using the preferred streaming apps, like Netflix and Hulu.

Co-founder Katzenberg is now ready to accept the blame for Quibi’s failing, having admitted recently that he was wrong for blaming the entirety of the company’s collapse on the ongoing pandemic. Multiple factors unrelated to COVID-19, including ineffective marketing, relatively mediocre content, and the subscription fee, played a part in the shutting down of the company. Quibi charged $5 a month for its service, or $8 without ads, which kept people from using it. People were more inclined to watch free content on platforms such as YouTube and TikTok or highly famous shows and movies found on Netflix and Disney+. In addition, the content was poorly received by Quibi’s audience. As an entertainment streaming service, they needed quality content and titles that would convince its users to continue their subscriptions, however, critics have cited that this was not found on their platform. Quibi was also only viewable on mobile phones and was not available via TV or computers which made other applications preferable. Lastly, Quibi lacked in the marketing department as well with hardly any ads on TV or any social media platforms other than Twitter. Had they expanded beyond Twitter, more people could have possibly been aware of the app’s launch which would have led to an increase in the number of downloads.

Other companies have encountered challenges because of the coronavirus and yet managed to find a solution to stay up and running. For this reason, Quibi cannot blame all its problems on the pandemic alone. Both Katzenberg and Whiteman, co-founders of Quibi, have admitted that they were partially to blame for the issues that arose due to poor leadership and a lack of insight into consumer behavior. This approach to streaming was expected to disrupt content length expectations but resulted in success so short that it was about the length of Quibi’s five to ten-minute content segments.


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