Quibi Should Not Be Ignored
Ever since Quibi was first announced in 2018, the most common sentiment from journalists, consumers, and even many industry insiders has been skepticism. Critics have ridiculed the startup for raising nearly $2 billion before ever launching a product publicly, for charging too high of a price in the middle of the “streaming wars,” for running an advertisement during the Super Bowl without having a live product, and everything in between. These criticisms actually reveal how little those critics understand the premium video industry. If Quibi does not succeed, it will not be due to the company’s execution, it will be because their thesis was wrong from the outset — and the only way to prove a thesis wrong is to test it in the best possible conditions.
Quibi is a premium subscription video-on-demand service led by Hollywood veteran Jeffrey Katzenberg and tech veteran Meg Whitman. The service launches on April 6, 2020, and will be available only on mobile phones. The idea behind the product is that consumers are glued to their smartphones more than ever and that there’s a lack of high-quality, short-form native content for these devices. We may spend time flipping through TikTok videos, viewing Instagram stories, or even watching YouTube clips — but is there an appetite for professionally made, high-quality storytelling on our phones?
Quibi’s content will consist of short-form episodes or “quick-bites” (hence, “Quibi”) that are 10 minutes or less and are released daily or weekly. To date, the company has raised $1.75 billion from major Hollywood studios and has top-tier talent creating content for the platform. The subscription service will charge $5 per month for ad-supported streaming and $8 per month for an ad-free experience, making its ad-free tier more expensive than recently launched AppleTV+ and Disney+.
All of this has had industry critics rolling their eyes at how obvious of a failure they believe it will be — no one wants to watch premium content on their phones! Part of this skepticism stems from the failed history of mobile-first video platform attempts, which includes Verizon spending hundreds of millions of dollars on Go90, which launched in 2015 and shuttered less than three years later.