Quibi Coming After Netflix in Streaming Space

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On paper, a time when vastly more people are watching streaming media, but the industry itself is still in a building phase, seems like a great time to dive into the market. That said, upstart streaming service Quibi is struggling to connect with consumers and get them to sign up in numbers that will allow the brand to compete with industry heavyweights like Netflix and Disney.

Quibi hit the ground running when the company debuted its streaming service back in April, however, growth, as well as interest in the brand, has not been stellar. Speaking to the New York Times about what has been called an “anemic” launch, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg said the slow start can be attributed in part to COVID-19, but that “we own it.”

Speaking with CNN Business, CEO Meg Whitman was more optimistic, saying: “You have to remember, we’re a new brand with original content, a new tech platform that was built from the ground up… We came into the market with no library, no legacy product… We’re starting from scratch.” The unspoken implication is that the company is doing fine and has tremendous upside potential.

Currently, Quibi has about 1.3 million active users. This is a very small audience when compared to the more than 50 million Disney+ customers and 183 million Netflix streamers. Even those million users may not be a realistic number, as most of them are still well within the 90-day free trial phase.

Whitman, however, is nonplussed, saying she expects growth in this sector to be slow, and that finding the right audience in this market is a challenge. “It’s hard to gain people’s attention, particularly in a pandemic… But I feel really good about where we are…”

While optimism about a young business is healthy, especially when the boss is speaking to consumers, the market is not currently working in Quibi’s favor. With more people at home, streaming services are picking up a lot of new subscribers, and Quibi is struggling to keep pace.

Katzenberg was blunt when speaking about the growth pattern, saying, “Is it the avalanche of people we wanted? No… It’s not up to what we wanted… It’s not close.”

That said, principles and stakeholders are still banking on the uniqueness of their product to see them through in the long run, as long as they can grab the attention of enough streamers. They believe there’s an audience out there for shorter, easily watched content with solid production value.

Critics say the company has more pressing issues, though. First, the fact that Quibi was built for people “on the go.” It is only available on mobile devices and its biggest competitors are all multiplatform, which makes them a more obvious value for consumers, especially those stuck at home for the moment.

The fact that people are not “on the go” as much as they had been or eventually will be hurts the company’s initial market position. Content is another challenge. If people don’t really know what they’re getting, will they be willing to pay for it? That remains to be seen, and Quibi has a serious uphill challenge in the near future as they seek to shift their unique value proposition for an audience with many other options. 

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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