Where Did Quibi Go Wrong?

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Quibi is shutting down.  

The streaming platform that offered ‘quick bite’ entertainment to watch on phones announced that they’re closing the app and selling off their content.  

So, What Went Wrong With Quibi  

Quibi launched back in April this year with about 2 billion dollars in its pocket from investors.  

The idea was to offer a streaming service that was somewhere between Netflix and TikTok 

Content would be exclusively viewed on phones, and episodes of shows wouldn’t be any longer than around 10 minutes.  

Quibi’s plan to bring audiences in, was to use major celebrities in their shows, as a drawcard.  

There was an action thriller starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz. Chrissy’s Court starring Chrissy Teigen as a kind of comedy Judge Judy. A version of Punk’d starring Chance the Rapper. And a show featuring Anna Kendrick acting alongside a sex doll.  

Quibi spent a huge amount of money creating these shows, in fact, they forecast spending US1.1 billion dollars just on creating shows in their first year.  

But the company barely made it past the six-month mark.    

There had been reports for months about Quibi’s failure to keep people subscribed to the app.  

Right now, the Quibi app has half a million paying customerseven though it attracted more than 7 million at the outset.  

For reference, Disney+ has drawn 50 million subscribers, and Netflix has a massive 183 million.   

Quibi’s founder has blamed the pandemic for the app’s failure, after all, the content is kind of perfect for commutes.  

But, as much as the company wants to point the finger at COVID, there a few different reasons why Quibi flopped.  

Joseph Earp: I think it failed because they threw so much money simply at the content and they seemed to throw no money at explaining the need for Quibi.” 

That’s Joseph Earp, he’s a music and film critic for Junkee and he actually likes Quibi’s content.   

But he thinks the fact that nobody knew a lot about it, or what it was producing, was a huge problem.  

JE: I just think it’s an issue of marketing, in that, I was just like flicking through the app earlier today  and even I – who use Quibi more regularly than any other human on the planet – had no idea that Liam Hemsworth was in a Quibi show. Spending so much money on celebrities is fine, if you use that content, and if people even know that content exists.” 

The fact that Quibi didn’t establish its brand and give some context to its shows, meant that clips like this one from the horror show 50 States of Fright could go viral and make the app a bit of a joke on social media.  

Early Branding Problems Or, Just A Dud Idea?

But besides these branding issues, there was probably another big reason Quibi didn’t catch on.  

Quibi poured all of this cash into making shows with bite-sized episodes – but, are premium videos that run for 10 minutes really what people want?  

JE: I wonder if, when people hear ‘short form content,’ when they just want to just watch something mindlessly – what they actually want to watch is very low budget content, made by people that become celebrities after the fact, not like written, scripted content from famous people they know from somewhere else. 

Reporters have pointed out that if we want to consume a hit of celebrity content these days, all we have to do is go on their social media.  

We don’t need to commit to an episode of Chrissy’s Court if we can see a self-recorded video of her, in her house, instead. 

All this being said, Joseph still sticks by the quality of the shows that people can find on the app.  

JE: “I hope they will sell the shows off to other streaming services, but there’s a good possibility they won’t, so you should download it just to validate that these things exist. 

The Takeaway 

So even though Quibi became the butt of social media jokes, their failure really wasn’t about bad content. It was at least partly the way that Quibi’s directors failed to market and establish the brand.  

And as for whether premium short content will ever work, on any streaming platform, that really remains to be seen.