Quibi Co-Founder Blames App's Lackluster Performance on Coronavirus Pandemic

The streaming service landscape has evolved quite a lot in recent years, with new companies attempting to break the mold. One of the newest entries into that is Quibi, which launched in early April with the promise of delivering five to ten-minute-long "quick bites" of content. Even with a roster of celebrities in front of and behind the camera for Quibi content, and the initial promise of a 90-day free trial, the app's popularity has been regarded by many to be a little underwhelming. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the prolific producer who co-created the app with Meg Whitman, has a unique reasoning for why that happened. As Katzenberg recently told The New York Times, he blames "everything" that has plagued the app's launch so far on the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” Katzenberg explained. “Everything. But we own it.”

Reported download numbers for Quibi have ranged from 2.9 million to 3.5 million, with the company claiming that it currently has 1.3 million active users.

“Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch?” Katzenberg continued. “The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted.”

"If we knew on March 1, which is when we had to make the call, what we know today, you would say that is not a good idea,” Katzenberg added. “The answer is, it’s regrettable. But we are making enough gold out of hay here that I don’t regret it.”

To an extent, Katzenberg's thought process is understandable, especially given the way that Quibi has largely been pitched. The service sets out to offer content for the small stretches of time in a person's busy day, such as during a commute or while waiting in line for something. Given how much the pandemic has uprooted nearly everyone's sense of routine, those small stretches of time are not as commonplace.

"My hope, my belief was that there would still be many in-between moments while sheltering in place,” Mr. Katzenberg said. “There are still those moments, but it’s not the same. It’s out of sync.”

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That being said, some might interpret Katzenberg blaming the pandemic as a bit of scapegoating, especially considering how other similar platforms have fared in recent months. According to new data from JustWatch.com, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu have all seen at least a 250% increase since March 17th. Another app that has been compared to Quibi in recent weeks has been TikTok, an app that focuses on user-created short-form videos.

"That’s like comparing apples to submarines,” Katzenberg said. “I don’t know what people are expecting from us. What did Netflix look like 30 days after it launched? To tell me about a company that has a billion users and is doing great in the past six weeks, I’m happy for them, but what the hell does it have to do with me?"