A little more than a month ago, the world officially saw a new entrant to the streaming war. After raising ~$2 billion from the likes of The Walt Disney Company, Alibaba Group, & Greenspring Associates, Quibi, a short-form video streaming platform founded by Silicon Valley veterans Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ken Howery & Meg Whitman officially launched on April 6th, 2020. Quibi has been the subject of a lot of speculation in the tech and VC world and much of VC and tech Twitter has been waiting with bated breath on how it will be received at launch.
As one of the (supposedly) biggest streaming platform launches to date, I was curious about how my peer group uses and experiences the service. GenZs and millennials have a combined spending power of nearly $3 trillion and are the richest age demographic in history. As early adopters of most new social platforms and forms of media consumption, analyzing how a new startup launch tracks with this demographic could be a leading indicator of how successful the company will be.
If you’re like most quarantined kids, teenagers, or young adults these days, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Hulu, and Disney+ are probably working overtime in your household. After relentlessly complaining about how much I hate social distancing (while simultaneously being grateful that I can afford to do my job within the comfort of my home) to my friends and family, I realized that Quibi was a name that was often missing in these conversations.
So, I launched a survey with 40 responders between the ages of 10 and 25 (although the survey skews older) to learn more about how GenZs and younger millennials feel about Quibi.
66% have never heard of Quibi before.
90% have not watched at least 1 show on Quibi from start to finish.
95% of the responders would not tell their friends to sign up for Quibi.
97% have binge-watched 1 show or less on Quibi since it launched.
So what’s the deal? Why did Quibi’s launch fall so flat with the generation that’s supposed to vault the streaming service into the media hall of fame?
There are three things that went wrong.
Quibi’s launched a couple of weeks after the entire world went on lockdown to limit the outbreak of the coronavirus and transmission of COVID-19. With all public gatherings, events, and non-essential services shut down until further notice, people sought out streaming services for entertainment and to pass time. Consumer spending on streaming has increased anywhere from 20–50%. Netflix for example, more than doubled its projected number of new subscribers since the pandemic began and Disney+ added 22 million new subscribers as well.
For streaming services like Netflix, the stay-at-home era could lead to reduced churn, increased new subscriber growth, and higher ARPU due to up-selling plans to allow for more concurrent screens to stream content. Once you get used to being on a streaming platform and constantly have a vast library of content to access at any time, it will be hard to leave. Streaming platforms are some of the stickiest products in the market right now since COVID has become a catalyst for the acceleration of streaming adoption. Although this could be perceived as a market opportunity for Quibi, the platform launched at a time when streaming services are one of the most sticky products out there and the barriers to gaining mind and market share are higher than ever.
While Quibi (and AppleTV+) are the cheapest without ads, compared to Netflix, Disney+, Peacock, and Hulu, they also have the smallest library of content. In contrast to existing players, Quibi doesn’t offer either 4K HDR display or the ability to stream content from multiple screens but is the only mobile-only platform. Overall, traditional streaming platforms offer storylines, allow users to get invested in the plot of the content, and have a much more curated UX to ensure audiences experience the content in the right way.
When it comes to short-form video, the big differentiator between TikTok/Youtube and Quibi is that their content is mainly user-generated. This is what drove every GenZ to TikTok with 48% of TikTok’s user base being under 20 and Youtube becoming the most visited website by people aged 18–24. By sharing and viewing each other’s content, users on TikTok and Youtube make it possible for users to get their content amplified and seen across the world enabling every kid to become an influencer. It develops a certain intimacy and feeling of connectedness within this generation even if they’re spread out across the world.
This leaves Quibi somewhere in the middle. It’s heavily produced nature (like a Netflix or an AppleTV+) is combined with the platform being optimized for “on-the-go” viewing via short-form content like TikTok or YouTube. Although the intention here was to capture the value proposition of both sides, what ended up happening is that they captured neither. Both these groups have very different value propositions — Netflix is where you go to consume long-form media and find an escape in a story and TikTok/Youtube is where you go to feel connected with your friends, have a laugh and move on. Quibi tried to do what traditional streaming platforms do in the format of user-generated media platforms. The lesson learned here is that you can’t deliver engaging storylines, immersive content experiences, and effective character development in a way that draws the audience in 10–12-minute bites.
Quibi launched with 50 titles and is planning to introduce 150 more this year starring Idris Elba, Chance The Rapper, Chrissy Teigen, Liam Hemsworth, Christoph Waltz, and Jennifer Lopez. While there was no shortage of star power with shows like “Chrissy’s Court” and “Thanks a Million”, there was nothing compelling enough to hold the audience’s attention. The survey results confirm this where only 20% of the survey respondents felt more compelled to sign up when they found out who was being cast and 45% were indifferent. Why?
The problem is that Quibi tried to do too much. Ultimately, what hurt Quibi the most is that its content wasn’t built for binge-watching. Compared to the launch of AppleTV+ or Disney+, there was no anchoring content or features that compelled users to flock to the platform**.** Engaging storylines are what makes content the king: AppleTV+ had The Morning Show, Disney+ had well….every Disney movie ever and Netflix has a slew of original content that have become hit shows. For the type of content it delivers, it wasn’t able to tell the right type of stories that makes content binge-worthy. 36% of GenZ’s primarily stream video content (outside of social networking platforms) via binge-watching and Quibi’s core value proposition of 10 minute long plot-based videos fail to deliver on this. Ultimately, nothing made enough of an impression to drive users back to the platform over and over again so they can find out what happens.
What’s just as important if not more than the actual content itself, is how that content is experienced by the end-user. To start, the fact that mobile is the only way to experience Quibi is a nonstarter for folks who are spending all day at home. This was an app created for the 15 minutes in your dentist’s waiting room or the Uber ride from one meeting to the next. The utility of having a mobile-only streaming app disappears when you’re home all day with nowhere to go. One would rather opt for watching something on your TV or computer over being on your phone for an extended period of time.
However, an interesting feature worth exploring is the Turnstyle, a feature that Katzenberg called “the third generation of the film narrative”. Quibi automatically switches between landscape and portrait mode and you’ll notice different angles and shots when switching orientation. It’s an interesting new way to experience the content for sure but this feature is only as good as the content it is built for. Since the content fell so flat, I’m not sure this counts as a feature that really drives the product forward.
After raising ~$2B, it will be interesting (to say the least) to see how Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman take the company forward. While there may be a light at the end of the tunnel post-COVID for the app’s success, it’s safe to say that GenZ’s won’t be the one to turn Quibi’s story into that of TikTok’s.
I’d love to hear what you think about Quibi- you can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter @pranc_!