Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney and DreamWorks executive whose new streaming app Quibi has quickly become a punchline, still has faith in his ability to turn things around. In spite of the criticisms the app has faced and low engagement with audiences, Katzenberg says he still believes that the biggest problem confronting Quibi is that it debuted during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Katzenberg characterizes Quibi -- with short-form videos like YouTube but big-name stars to anchor them -- as an app for people on the go, and says that when people weren't on the go anymore because of lockdown, it hurt the launch.
That logic has been questioned by audiences and critics, since virtually every other streaming platform has enjoyed greater success during the lockdown, since audiences are more or less captive and there's no movie theaters. Katzenberg, though, argues that because of the short-form nature of Quibi, they are looking for audiences who are waiting at the doctor's office or sitting in their car.
"I'm still quite optimistic this is gonna work," Katzenberg told a virtual version of SeriesFest, an annual TV festival. "When the country opens up… we are all going to be back on the go again. The difference is, is that we are going to be waiting on line for more things than ever before… We are going to be waiting like crazy, and I hope Quibi is there to keep you entertained."
Variety quotes Katzenberg as saying that other streaming platforms "are competing for your time in the living room in watching long-form, episodic, serialized television. They're all battling for the same thing. We're in a white space. We want you from 7 in the morning to 7 at night."
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?"
Katzenberg and Meg Whitman backpedaled on their original commitment to a smartphone-only app, allowing Quibi subscribers with iPhones and Android devices can now cast the content to a television, so it is more than just a mobile app.