There are many things you can say about what went wrong with Quibi, but that it wasn't well funded is not one of them. Or that is didn't attract talent. From the outside looking in, Quibi seemed to have everything going for it. It has two high-profile, high-powered leaders who bring decades of experience in tech and Hollywood. It has big-name celebrities creating its short-form content. It also had the sort of pre-release buzz any startup would kill for.
You could argue that launching in the middle of a global pandemic has been a bit of a challenge. OK, I'll give you that.
Except, for most streaming services, the pandemic has been a boon. Netflix even said as much, when it made clear that it benefited from people having more time at home right now. Many are filling that time with lots of streaming entertainment.
What people don't have, however, is more "in-between" time: traveling from home to work, or waiting for their next meeting, etc. That was the entire premise behind Quibi's "10-minutes-or-less" content format, and that kind of time simply isn't a thing in a world where people are working from home, not commuting to work.
Also, some ideas just aren't that good, no matter what they have going for them.
Remember Qwikster? Remember when Netflix was the service where you ordered DVDs online and they mailed them to you? When you were done, you mailed them back, and Netflix sent you whatever was next on your list. For that, you paid $7.99 a month, or whatever it was.
Then, the company introduced streaming video, and realized that it was a lot more efficient to deliver content over the internet instead of through the postal service. But since there were still some people that liked physical DVDs, the company announced it would split out that part of the business into a new company called Qwikster.
Aside from being a terrible name, Qwikster was an even worse business experiment. It lasted roughly the same amount of time it just took you to read that trip down memory lane. OK, fine, it actually took about three months for Netflix to put that debacle out of its misery, though it still offers physical media through its DVD Netflix service.
Or how about the Microsoft Zune, which was one of a handful of ways the company attempted to copy something made by Apple, in that case the iPod. Except, other than the fact that it had a battery, a headphone jack, and played music, it was nothing like an iPod. That one lasted a little longer than Qwikster, but Microsoft shut it down after five years.
Back to Quibi.
This week, The Verge is reporting that as the free trial period ended, Quibi lost 90 percent of the users who signed up in the first three days, There are reportedly only around 72,000 paid subscribers. That's pretty bad, but it's not the worst part. That report cites data from Sensor Tower that says Quibi has only seen about 4.5 million total downloads of its app.
To put that in context, Disney+ has more than 50 million subscribers, some 20 million of whom signed up between March 15 and May 1. Even with a free trial, Quibi has had less than 25 percent of the number of users of Disney+. It's also more expensive than Disney+, at least for the ad-free version.
The problem with Quibi is that it tried to meet a need that simply doesn't exist, with content that no one is really that interested in watching. Or, to put it another way, the content isn't that good, largely because of the constraints put on it by the "quick bites" concept. No amount of cool technology or celebrities can make up for that. Think about that when you're coming up with your next big idea: Is it the one? Or is it a Quibi?