At-Home Rules Have Cramped Quibi's Prospects

Is mobile still a thing for premium video in a COVID-19 world -- especially for new players?

Quibi, the digital-first, mobile-focus premium video app, got started at the wrong time. It launched April 6, smack in the middle of all hell breaking loose. After two weeks, it stirred up a paltry 2.7 million downloads. No doubt Quibi investors, totaling a massive $1 billion funding for the company, have been twitching.

Some silver lining -- or maybe just shreds of patina: We see during COVID-19 creating rising usage in mobile -- even at home. Why is that?

“It’s an ingrained consumer behavior,” Jaysen Gillespie, vice president of analytics, insights, and data science for Criteo, tells TV Watch.  “Young consumers instinctively reach for the phone.”



And there is some promise for the original Quibi concept, considering slow stay-at-home openings for many states. That means people still need to stand in lines, perhaps looking for some quick entertainment, says Gillespie:  “I had to wait outside of Trader Joe's for 11 minutes.”

In that regard, Quibi could compete readily with mobile-centric apps like Snap or TikTok when it comes to video content.The long-term premise works for Quibi. Says Gillespie: “Marketers are looking for alternatives to Google and Facebook.”

Currently, Quibi has non-skippable ads at 5-second or 15-second messaging in length -- which is a good formula for a platform scheduling TV-like episodes of no more than 10 minutes in length.

But is Quibi good for the home-bound, long-term user? Probably not. Right now, Jeffrey Katzenberg, founder of Quibi, says COVID-19 could put a major dent in the platform launch. “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” he told The New York Times.

The weak Quibi downloads are just the tip of the iceberg. More research is needed to determine viewing, usage, engagement, and/or popularity data.

What happens over the next six to eight months?

On mobile, people still text at home, look at email in their kitchen, read social media in their bedrooms. But perhaps little else. Watching a short 10-minute video in your living room or bedroom on your phone might be strictly for the hardcore mobile user.

Quibi had an initial promotion -- a free ad-supported version for 90 days (or a year free for T-Mobile subscribers). After that, it costs $4.99 per month, or $7.99 without ads.

Are those still good options now?  Maybe if I get a high-profile, must-see “Star Trek” or “Star Wars”-like episode.

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