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  • Writer's pictureKieran Bailey

What Happened to Quibi?

Remember, if you can, way back to the start of 2020 and that omnipresent purple Q that was all over the place. No... not that Q.

Not that one either.

It seemed you could not swipe or scroll without seeing some paid promotion of Quibi. The name was quirky and the leaders impressive. With some very prominent investors, it seemed to be positioning itself to become a new power player in the digital streaming field.

Except not, because it closed about 6 months later.

How did a braintrust of some of the most well known players in media come crashing down in such a spectacular fashion? The idea was stale, tried and played out, and about 5 years too late.

First, a brief history of the brief company: Quibi was a streaming OTT platform created by Jeffrey Katzenburg and led by Meg Whitman. It raised an obscene amount of money to the tune of $1 Billion from many big-name studios, including Disney, Fox, Viacom, NBCUniversal, and more to produce quick 10-minute episodic shorts aimed at a younger audience. Quibi launched in April to lackluster reception, falling out of the top 50 iPhone app downloads a week after launch and continuing to plummet until yesterday (October 21st) when it was announced the service would be shuttering.

Katzenberg is on record saying “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus," but as someone who gave Quibi the college try... I think they were lucky to have the pandemic keeping people home and bored enough to swipe through the app. In my opinion, Quibi fell down on these key points.

This Service Already Existed For Free.

There is a wide selection of streaming platforms already in existence, ranging from short form (TikTok) to long form (YouTube) to network affiliated options (Hulu) all putting out similar content for essentially free.

Aside from the nifty landscape/portrait shifting feature built into the viewing experience, there was nothing unique about what Quibi was offering. In fact, I'd argue that the premise was basically a lifted version of YouTube Premium, but with even less available before the paywall. Quibi was hoping that their weird assortment of current pop culture names and nostalgic novelty reboots would be enough for people to fork over a premium price without ever really enticing us with examples of what lay beyond the fold. Speaking of programming...

The Programming Made No Sense.

My face looking at the full list of programming

The programming choices on Quibi looked like someone opened a can of cold Spaghetti-Os and chucked it at the wall to see what stuck. For aiming for a younger audience, there were a lot of reboots but instead of capitalizing on the nostalgia bombs, they pumped the casts full of zillennials.

Who was this platform for? What was the target audience? It was never clear from the launch and seemed to struggle to figure it out while attempting to find new users. Which brings me to my last note...

Marketing Messaging was Messy.

The first I remember hearing of Quibi was the Super Bowl commercial, back in January 2020. The product didn't launch until April. Between that 30 second spot and the actual launch of the app, that commercial played with the gusto of a political campaign ad on every platform I was on. There were countless promoted trends on Twitter, banner ads, social posts, and I'm pretty sure they would have piped a feed into our dreams if given the option.

Once Quibi was launched though... nothing. I don't think they blipped on my radar again until their "Home Movie: Princess Bride" mini series, and that's only because Cary Elwes is a fantastic promoter of his own products.

And extremely adorable in every movie he's in

For the record, that was a fantastic concept with great execution. I'd enter it as an example of creativity shining in entertainment during Covid. Did I watch it on Quibi? No... watching 1 to 2 minute clips with an ad inbetween is not an enjoyable experience. I waited until it was uploaded to YouTube in full, on the official Quibi channel no less.

To reiterate, the marketing strategy that I observed was:

  • Huge campaign months before launch with no product to direct to

  • A fair amount of noise week of launch

  • Silence for months and hope the talent's social media pull can gain views

  • Give away the good content on a competing platform under official brand name

  • Close up shop less than 6 months later

Seems legit.

What Have We Learned?

Even $1 Billion can't save you from a halfbaked rehash of products that already exist.

Did you watch Quibi? Are you surprised that it's folding? Let me know in the comments below.

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