Short-form video app Quibi has had a rough start since launching in April, and co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg says there’s only one thing he blames: COVID-19.
“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” Katzenberg told the New York Times in a report published late Monday. Katzenberg said that the initial app downloads have not been “close to what we wanted.” Now Quibi is going to let iPhone users watch it on their TVs to try and make up some of the lost ground.
Buoyed by entertainment maestro Katzenberg’s reputation (he was chairman of Disney from 1984 through 1994 and co-founded DreamWorks Animation), Quibi attracted stars like Idris Elba, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Spielberg and others. The idea was to create short-form video intended to be watched on smartphones. If successful, this could have blurred the line between short videos like those found on YouTube and TikTok and streaming shows like those created by Netflix and Disney+.
But the NYT says initial downloads have been “anemic.” After its first week on the market, it fell out of the 50 most downloaded free iPhone apps. Currently, it reportedly has had somewhere between 2.9 million and 3.5 million installs. Quibi says that 1.3 million are active users.
“Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch?” Katzenberg said. “The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted.”
Letting iPhone users watch Quibi on their TVs
To try and correct course, Quibi is changing one of its initial selling points. Instead of only being available to watch on mobile devices, it is now switching to allow people to watch on their TVs. The feature, which will use AirPlay to let users cast shows to their TV, will go live for iPhone users this week. The article notes that:
“Mr. Katzenberg and [co-founder Meg Whitman] have backpedaled on their original commitment to a smartphone-only app. This week, Quibi subscribers who have iPhones will be able to watch movies-in-chapters like Most Dangerous Game and shows like Chrissy’s Court on TV screens. (Android users will have to wait a few more weeks.)”
In an April interview, Quibi CEO maintained that letting users watch Quibi on their TVs was always part of the plan. However, she noted that the company was “accelerating its plans” to enable the app to cast to TVs.
Quibi is available as a free download from the App Store. After the 90-day trial, Quibi costs $4.99 with ads, and $7.99 without.