Commentary

Quibi May Have Survived If It Wasn't A Standalone Service

The spectacular failure of Quibi -- the mobile-first, digital-first, standalone service -- begs a major question.

What if it wasn’t a standalone service -- perhaps attached to a big TV/media company? What if it had been part of Disney+, HBO Max or Netflix? Or, thinking more digitally, Facebook, Google, Apple or Twitter?

“There is no question being a start-up has challenges that a big company doesn’t have,” says Meg Whitman, CEO of Quibi, on CNBC. “Maybe at a different time, in a different place, this would have worked better.”

Big media companies’ new streaming businesses can have staying power. For example, Apple TV + continues to be a slow-growing premium service, where the cash-rich Apple continues to pour billions into content production.

To that end, Whitman, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, founder-chairman of Quibi, had major media investment backing: nearly $1.8 billion.

Additionally, Katzenberg had a pedigree of major media senior executive successes at movie/TV companies. He was CEO of DreamWorks Animation (cofounder, along with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, of Dreamworks SKG), and before that, chairman of Walt Disney Studios and president of Paramount Pictures.

A point of contention was Quibi’s business model -- a subscription/advertising model. What if Quibi had a free/ad-supported model option -- which has been a growing theme among new premium streamers? Whitman says Quibi did test one in Australia, but it didn’t do that well.

Good news for Quibi: Critics’ reviews were positive for its TV series and other content. Right now, Katzenberg says he is still trying to sell some of this content to interested buyers. More ambitiously, Quibi tried to sell the entire company. Presently, there are no takers, says Katzenberg.

At nearly $2 billion from media and other investors, Quibi felt it didn’t need to be a part of a big media company -- the growing digital world had plenty of room for independent companies.

The pandemic? Sure, that was a major issue. But ask yourself: HBO Max and Peacock also started around the same time as the Quibi launch. They have had some success, according to analysts, but not big gains so far. Add in Apple TV+ to this mix.

Have any of these services folded? Nope. Parent companies of those premium services -- WarnerMedia NBCUniversal, and Apple -- have resources. Long-term.

Just to repeat: The Quibi brand was shorthand for “quick bites.”

1 comment about "Quibi May Have Survived If It Wasn't A Standalone Service".
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  1. Gabriel Cohen from SpotX, October 27, 2020 at 3:27 p.m.

    Apples and Oranges here - Quibi launched for commuters and mobile screen warriors who got kicked off of the TV for live sports and events even in the home. Every other service compared to them has a CTV presence. Good content, but when no one is sitting on a train or bus or Uber/Lyft high population areas that means no revenue. No one working late in the office with something on in the background to distract - means no revenue. I think you might be right that they should have pivoted to a free, ad-supported model, but the pandemic has brought back the TV in the home and I don't think that would have saved them. CTV has exploded and even desktop/mobile has had trouble keeping up

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