Remember Quibi? The mobile exclusive streaming service made its debut at perhaps the best time for a new streaming service, launching on April 6 as the coronavirus pandemic began to force most Americans to stay in their homes for extended periods of time and seek entertainment. Quibi became kind of notorious in online circles for a few reasons like the over $1 billion in capital raised by the company before its launch, its constant string of original programming that sounded like shows from within a Paul Verhoeven movie, and also the inability to let users watch the content on any device except their phones. That will change soon.
In a new profile from The New York Times, the topic was brought up with co-founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman who both "backpedaled on their original commitment to a smartphone-only app," confirming that Quibi subscribers with iPhones can cast to their TVs in an update this week, while Android users "will have to wait a few more weeks."
This is a pretty major about face by Katzenberg and Whitman, with the former previously telling Variety that they intended to make their entire platform the disruptive force in streaming, saying: "Mobile video is the white space." The lack of television support, or even apps on Chromecast, became a major disadvantage for Quibi in the early days of its launch, but in their defense they couldn't have forseen of a moment when people would no longer be "on the go" and looking for content to watch, instead stuck in their homes and hoping to use their televisions.
Katzenberg spoke about the coronavirus pandemic as well in The New York Times' new piece, going on record to say: "I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything. But we own it."
Despite showy statistics from the early part of Quibi's life on mobile platforms, the service has failed to really capture audiences. According to Sensor Tower the app was downloaded by 2.9 million customers (which Quibi disputes and says "is more like 3.5 million"). Quibi was also only downloaded 300,000 times which pales in comparison to Disney+ which was downloaded four million times on its first day. Katzenberg was clearly disappointed by these engagement numbers for the service, saying: . "Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch? The answer is no. It's not up to what we wanted. It's not close to what we wanted."
Perhaps with the ability to watch their content on televisions, they'll see a new influx of users and viewers, or perhaps Qubi's time itself was a quick bite in the streaming wars.