- It’s a moment of truth for Quibi, the mobile-video startup that launched in April after raising $1.75 billion to try and revolutionize TV for smartphones.
- Quibi’s early sign ups are rolling off its 90-day free trial offer, and the startup will soon see how many people are willing to pay $5 per month to watch its short-form programming.
- Business Insider has reported on the company’s top executives, leadership approach, strategy for working with content partners, and more.
- Earlier this year, Quibi execs also spoke with Business Insider about how the company secured $150 million in ad revenue pre-launch, its millennial-focused marketing strategy, and how it will measure success.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s a moment of truth for Quibi, the mobile-video startup that raised $1.75 billion to try and revolutionize TV for smartphones.
Customers who took advantage of Quibi’s 90-day free trial offer when the service launched in April are coming off those trials, and the startup will soon see how many people are willing to pay $5 per month to watch its short-form programming.
Quibi told Bloomberg on July 9 that 5.6 million people had downloaded the app so far, and it was “seeing excellent conversion to paid subscribers,” despite a report by analytics firm Sensor Tower that suggested only a small share of trial user stuck with the service.
Quibi, led by Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg, was designed around serialized, 10-minute videos — or “quibis,” short for “quick bites” — made only for smartphones, for $8 per month or $5 with ads.
It was initially touted in its marketing for the convenience of viewing during “in-between moments” of the day when people are on the go or scrolling through social media.
But Quibi launched in a very different world than it was conceived in.
The service hit snags right away, as the coronavirus pandemic forced people to spend more time at home.
In May, Katzenberg told The New York Times the pandemic was to blame for “everything that has gone wrong.”
But, pandemic or not, the future of Quibi is riding on the leadership of Katzenberg, who insiders told Business Insider has close control over the platform’s content. The content, industry experts say, is what streaming services succeed or fail on.
Quibi launched with 50 titles, including “movies” told in parts like “Survive” starring Sophie Turner and “Most Dangerous Game” with Liam Hemsworth, as well as scripted and alternative shows like a reboot of “Punk’d” hosted by Chance the Rapper and “Chrissy’s Court” with Chrissy Teigen.
The company also bet that daily news and lifestyle shows would make the platform a habit for its target audience of 25- to 35-year-olds.
But the programming hasn’t broken through, even with Quibi’s frequent and detailed notes to the production partners it commissioned its shows from.
Quibi has said it plans to release 175 original shows in its first year, the next wave of which are starting to roll out.
The service built social-media buzz in recent weeks with the release of “Home Video: The Princess Bride,” an homage to the classic film that’s packed with well-known celebrities. The project is helping raise money for World Central Kitchen.
Some insiders and entertainment-industry sources had previously questioned why Quibi hadn’t embraced social media more to begin with.
For instance, sources told Business Insider that Quibi had dismissed some pitches from influencers who have millions of followers on YouTube because they felt too similar to other content that could be found on social media.
But the company is also showing other signs of leaning into social media to promote its programming. It will soon allow people to share its content on social media, the company has said, following user and media criticism.
Quibi’s other course correction efforts in the months since its launch have included adding tools to cast video from mobile phones to smart TVs, since the app is only available on mobile devices.
Quibi, which planned a marketing blitz amid competition from Netflix, Disney Plus, and the like, also had to reshuffle its marketing team after one of its top execs departed shortly after launch, as The Wall Street Journal reported.
Quibi advertised heavily on social-media and digital channels to reach millennials where they were already spending time on smartphones. Most of Quibi’s ad buys were digital, though it also aired an ad in the Super Bowl in February.
“You fish for where the fish are,” Katzenberg said back in January. “The social-media platforms today, which is where people are in fact spending a good deal of time, is where the biggest focus of our marketing will be. And that’s where we’ll be spending most of our money.”
Read the full story: Inside the marketing strategy for Quibi, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s buzzy video startup
It was unclear what the market is for minutes-long episodes of shows and movies that users can only watch on their phones. But advertisers had been on board.
Quibi said in October that it booked $150 million in advertising, selling out the platform’s first full year of inventory months ahead of launch. Whitman told Business Insider in January that Quibi won over top advertisers like Procter & Gamble and Pepsi with the allure of millennial audiences in a brand-safe environment and the advancement of mobile entertainment and ad formats.
“They also believe that the next big revolution in entertainment really should be on the mobile phone, so the idea about creating and commissioning shows uniquely designed for mobile is super interesting to them,” Whitman said at the time.
Read the full story: Quibi’s CEO explains the video startup’s business model and how it booked $150 million in advertising revenue before launch
But The Wall Street Journal reported in May that some advertisers were asking to revisit their deal terms with Quibi, because of concerns about low viewership or how the pandemic was impacting their businesses.
As for Quibi’s own measure of success, execs previously said they would evaluate the service using metrics like paid net subscribers, the number of videos that people watch, and how people were using its hyped “turnstyle” feature.
Read the full story: Quibi execs describe 3 ways the video service will measure success — after raising $1.4 billion before launch
This post was originally published on April 6, 2020 and last updated on July 10.