◎在給Medium的致員工和投資者的公開信中，聯合創始人Jeffrey Katzenberg（前DreamWorks Animation執行長）和Meg Whitman（前HP執行長）寫道：我們懷著一顆難以置信的沉重心情，宣布結束業務並尋求出售內容和技術資產。Quibi是個好主意，沒有人比我們更想成功。我們的失敗不是因為缺乏嘗試。我們已經考慮並用盡了所有可用的選項。
在大流行期間啟動。Quibi的前提是原創節目，其短片短於10分鐘，人們可以在手機上觀看。該應用程式於4月6日 COVID-19大流行期間，在美國封鎖期間達到了頂峰。在封鎖期間，人們不會旅行，乘坐公共交通工具或等待朋友到來。相反的，人們在家裡，在電視上觀看節目，而Quibi甚至沒有啟動在電視上觀看的選項。該應用在第一周的下載量為170萬（免費），但隨後下載量急劇下降。短短10天後，該應用程式就跌出iOS App Store排名前70名的免費應用程序之列。根據SensorTower的數據，截至7月份，Quibi的付費用戶僅為72,000，這顯示90天免費試用的轉換率為8％。
串流媒體空間非常擁擠。Disney於11月推出了Disney +，並取得了巨大的成功，在最初的9個月中獲得了6050萬付費用戶。NBCUniversal軟體於4月為Comcast客戶推出，然後於7月在全國推出；據報導，截止到9月，它有1500萬訂戶。HBO於5月份推出了HBO Max，截至7月份已吸引了410萬付費用戶。這些服務由財力雄厚的媒體集團提供支持，並在發佈時附帶了龐大的內容庫。Quibi並不缺乏資金，但也許演出陣容並沒有吸引人們。
Quibi, the short-form mobile video app, raised $1.75 billion in venture funding before its launch in April. Just over six months later, it’s shutting down.
In an open letter to employees and investors posted to Medium on Wednesday evening, cofounders Jeffrey Katzenberg (former DreamWorks Animation CEO) and Meg Whitman (former HP CEO) wrote, “It is with an incredibly heavy heart that today we are announcing that we are winding down the business and looking to sell its content and technology assets. Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did. Our failure was not for lack of trying; we’ve considered and exhausted every option available to us.”
Quibi had investments from Alibaba, AT&T’s WarnerMedia, Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Disney, ViacomCBS, MGM, and Sony. It had a glitzy distribution partnership with T-Mobile. It had shows starring big-name talent like Chrissy Teigen, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon, Liam Hemsworth, Tyra Banks, Joe Jonas, Chance the Rapper, Demi Lovato, and Andy Samberg.
So, why did Quibi fail so spectacularly?
Launched during the pandemic
The premise of Quibi (short for “quick bites”) was original shows with episodes shorter than 10 minutes that people could watch on the go, on their phones. The company’s television advertising before launch put that pitch in a humorous context: a getaway car driver watching a Quibi video while his friends rob a bank; a man stuck in quicksand watching a Quibi video while he sinks.
But the app launched on April 6, at the height of U.S. lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. During lockdown, people were not on the go, riding public transit, or waiting for friends to arrive, or any of the other scenarios in which, prior to the pandemic, people might have wanted to be entertained by their phones for 10 minutes. Instead, people were at home, watching shows on fullscreen televisions. They were watching hour-long shows like “Tiger King” on Netflix.
Quibi did not even launch with an option to watch on your television.
The app saw 1.7 million (free) downloads in its first week, but then downloads dropped dramatically. After just 10 days, the app had fallen out of the top 70 free apps in the iOS App Store.
According to SensorTower data, Quibi had just 72,000 paying subscribers as of July, suggesting an 8% conversion rate from the 90-day free trial.
In an interview with the New York Times in May, Katzenberg blamed Quibi’s lackluster launch on the pandemic: “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything.”
Overcrowded streaming market
But Katzenberg and Whitman can’t blame the pandemic entirely. That would suggest that if Quibi had launched before the pandemic, it would have been a hit.
The streaming space is extremely crowded, and got even more crowded right around the time Quibi came out of the starting gate. Disney launched Disney+ in November and it has been extremely successful, garnering 60.5 million paying subscribers in its first nine months. NBCUniversal soft launched Peacock in April for Comcast customers, then launched it nationally in July; it reportedly had 15 million subscribers as of September. HBO launched HBO Max in May, and had lured 4.1 million paying subscribers as of July.
These services have deep-pocketed media conglomerates backing them and came with massive content libraries at launch. Quibi had no lack of funds, but perhaps the show lineup simply wasn’t enticing to people.
Or its entire premise of short-form television was faulty, and would have been unsuccessful no matter when it launched.
That’s a likelihood Katzenberg and Whitman finally acknowledge now, at the end of the road, in the goodbye letter: “Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing. Unfortunately, we will never know, but we suspect it’s been a combination of the two.”
There was a fair amount of hubris and grandiosity to the pitch Katzenberg and Whitman made during their media blitz in the months before Quibi launched.
At a Fortune conference in July 2019, Whitman declared, “We’re actually offering way more than just new content. We’re trying to bring together the best of Silicon Valley and Hollywood in a way that has not been done before.”
Katzenberg added, “What we’re setting out to do—it’s obviously a high bar, ambitious—is to create a new form of storytelling, and our mission statement here is to tell two-hour movies in chapters.”
It turned out people weren’t clamoring for that.
Quibi had $1.75 billion in funding to blow on content and marketing, but still may have overspent on individual projects or talent. In February, Quibi shelled out $5.6 million to run a 30-second Super Bowl ad; the ad ended up among the worst-rated with viewers.
Then the app faced backlash almost immediately after launch for the hefty sums it paid some stars, including $6 million to Reese Witherspoon to narrate a nature program; Witherspoon’s husband, former CAA agent Jim Toth, was Quibi’s head of content acquisitions and talent.
By June, just two months after launch, Quibi was asking its top executives to take 10% pay cuts amid the pandemic.
If all of its stumbles weren’t damaging enough, Quibi also got hit with a patent lawsuit from video startup Eko, bankrolled by hedge fund Elliott Management, over one of Quibi’s most praised features: automatic re-formatting of video depending on the orientation of the viewer’s phone.
Eko said that Quibi stole the tech. In July, a U.S. District Judge dismissed three of Eko’s nine claims against Quibi, including one that claims Katzenberg entered into an “implied contract” with Eko, but allowed the patent infringement suit to move forward.
According to The Information, Quibi has $350 million left to return to shareholders. That means it blew through $1.4 billion in six months. Katzenberg reportedly shopped a Quibi acquisition to NBCUniversal and Facebook, but both passed.
Still, its shows or other I.P. could end up sold off to larger streaming giants piecemeal. So don’t assume you won’t see “Chrissy’s Court” on Netflix soon.