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Quibi Blames Coronavirus For Lackluster Launch, But Is Its Strategy The Real Problem?

Elizabeth Balboa

Media veterans Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman were confident in the mid-pandemic timing of their launch of Quibi, a short-form video app.

“Think about how often you use your phone when you’re homebound,” Whitman told the New York Times before the April 6 rollout. “People who are home with their children would really like a 10-minute break.”

Slow Debut?

A month after its debut, Quibi has only 3.5 million downloads and 1.3 million active users. Management chalked up the slow start to the coronavirus.

“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” Katzenberg told the Times. “Everything.... Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch? The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted.”

“My hope, my belief was that there would still be many in-between moments while sheltering in place,” he added. “There are still those moments, but it’s not the same. It’s out of sync.”

See Also: How The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Affect Netflix And Roku Going Forward

Quibi's Problems Are More Fundamental

Loup Ventures said Quibi’s problems are more fundamental. “The problem isn’t coronavirus, it’s how the company is playing the attention game,” managing partner Doug Clinton wrote in a note.

Quibi features a portfolio of movie “chapters,” documentaries, reality shows and sports reports lasting less than 10 minutes each. It competes with a slew of products and services — from Netflix Inc (NASDAQ: NFLX) to Twitter Inc (NYSE: TWTR) to Fortnite — for consumer leisure time.

According to Clinton, Quibi can win the “attention game” only by seizing yet-unscheduled consumer time or creating the most compelling content. The company’s strategy to capture “in-between” moments — subway commutes or waits in line — was faulty, by Clinton’s assessment, because those moments were already claimed.

And Quibi’s content hasn’t proven to have the “compelling” factor.

More Compelling Content

“As a rule, the bar for what is compelling is always increasing, thus the demand for rich, extreme, and/or relevant content is always increasing,” Clinton wrote. “Quibis may be mildly richer in terms of how they tell stories through smaller components, but it isn’t that much different than chopping up a movie into pieces. Quibi hasn’t really attempted extremity or relevance.”

Clinton suggested the company also errs in releasing episodes daily instead of in a bingeable drop. They forfeit consumer attention.

Katzenberg assured the Times that Quibi is making adjustments to its platform and strategy as it learns from consumer trends. In the meantime, he hasn’t given up hope for the young streamer.

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