How did Quibi fail so spectacularly? Here are all the takeaways
With the claim that their content is “Your Daily Dose of Awesome”, Quibi launched in April 2020, boasting of high-tier content starring A-listers like the Jonas Brothers, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Chrissy Teigen & Sophie Turner. Even so, Quibi’s promise to deliver “short form” content for watching “on the go” didn’t strike a chord with the audiences.
The result? It couldn’t compete with the likes of Netflix & Hulu, nor go viral like the content on TikTok. The problem wasn’t as much in the product as it was in its misplaced idea of being different. The company kept insisting that these content platforms & streaming giants aren’t their competitors because Quibi’s content was serving different needs.
They repeated this lie so many times, they started believing it. After a while, it didn’t even sound like a word anymore. By the time their launch day arrived, doing anything “on the go” was a far gone idea, as the pandemic locked us into our homes in quarantine.
Gone before it even hatched?
Quibi is now shutting down, just six months after the app became available. Quibi was trying to do a lot at once, perhaps, by seeking to change the lexicon of content here. It called its 5-10 minute episode a “Quibi”, formatted for smartphone or smartwatches.
Problems plagued the platform as it never reached the expected viewership targets. On top of it, hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. financed a high-stakes patent lawsuit against Quibi, whereby interactive-video company Eko has reportedly accused Quibi of “misappropriating Eko’s proprietary technology for mobile device optimized ‘Real Time Switching.’”
So, what went wrong?
Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg & former HP CEO Meg Whitman set out with ambitious plans for Quibi but failed to secure any clarity on where it’s placed in context. In the matrix of all the vast content libraries, how could it appeal to viewers? Who exactly are the target viewers? Is the audience receptive?
Even though the lawsuit allegations were categorically denied by Quibi, Whitman accepted that the app never really took off, in terms of numbers. “Over the summer we started to see a slowdown in our momentum. We took stock of where we were and said the best thing to do, the honorable thing to do, is return money to shareholders when we knew this wasn’t going to have a path forward,” he explained the decision.
In the spirit of transparency, the founders wrote an open letter addressed to the investors & employees, admitting to the flaws in the product, the role of the pandemic in aggravating the situation, and suggested to call it a day.
Entrepreneurial incision of Quibi’s failure
One could argue that Quibi’s failure cannot be attributed to a single monster; it was a heady cocktail of multiple unfavorable factors working together to push the app into its doomsday. The company wanted to offer “inspiring shows for an intuitive, mobile-first platform, and a culture where everyone is heard”, but the sentiment didn’t reflect in their content library.
Barring a very few shows, there was nothing that made a lasting impression or a compelling viewing experience, despite all the star power they’d packed in. It didn’t help that the pricing was a perennial pain point. By keeping the ecosystem closed to social sharing or screenshotting also, Quibi had set the stage for its doom.
But the entrepreneurial mindset makes one wonder if Quibi’s management saw the flaws in their innovative thinking? Or was their blindspot too blinding to keep their self-assuredness in check? One of the biggest mistakes Quibi made was not accounting for its competitors. They decided they were doing something better than YouTube or Instagram & stuck by that thinking.
This complacency also came from a very archaic view of the Hollywood star power as a crowd-puller. Things don’t work that way anymore. Consumers are clearly showing interest in the content created by independent creators on the likes of YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, among others. To think your restricted user design can compete with that is plain foolish.
More often than not, it’s impossible to influence the audience’s decisions, likes & dislikes, unless you’re Apple. Quibi failed to understand this piece of the puzzle.