Lockdown has scotched Quibi's strategy
Updated: Mar 3, 2021
Quibi was never supposed to be a Netflix killer.
In fact, it was never even supposed to be a competitor.
Instead, the founders of the punchy new streamer stressed it was targeted at the minutes of ‘dead time’ during the day, where a potential subscriber would normally pass time aimlessly.
Quibi wanted to create a habit in its target audience, tapping into commutes and daily routines. Its launch offer, a 90-day trial, was designed around this concept, rather than a more usual month (though it was also a reaction to Covid-19 lockdowns around the world). Its mobile-only restriction again targets habit building. Removing the ability to cast to a TV was not really about protecting programme formats, but was targeted to train users to catch-up on their mobile, to remind them to use it the next time they have nothing to do and only use their phone to entertain them.
This strategy raised questions. If we look at YouTube, peak viewing is at the weekend – across mobile and TV. The VoD platform’s fastest growing segment of viewing is on the TV set, according to its own analytics, and within this subset Saturday is the most active day of the week. In a way, YouTube is pivoting away from its mobile past, towards longer content watched on a TV set.
So Quibi is therefore, an attempt to capture a subset of viewers – those looking for more premium content to view opportunistically. YouTube itself has struggled to make use premium content on its platform; first launching original long-form content bundled as a paid-for add-on, then folding that into the main service, then abandoning the approach entirely. Quibi is more focussed and presents a clear message that users can understand: bite-sized videos of quality short form. However, despite this, there are a number of lessons that can be drawn from the successful launch of other services that Quibi ignores. Instagram, and TikTok bear comparison. Quibi even prevents screen shots from being taken and shared, meaning there will be no spontaneous Baby Yoda moments. TikTok, the more recent launch, came to western markets in August 2018, and now counts half a billion users.
Both these successful apps draw heavily on social both to create content and to provide the impetus for users to then consume that content. They provide a range of features that aid users in ‘mixing’, commenting, participating and interacting. Quibi, on the other hand, eschews social completely, and goes as far as locking down the app, creating a content-quarantine zone. In addition to its pay wall, Quibi even prevents screen shots from being taken and shared, meaning there will be no spontaneous Baby Yoda moments. The service actively fights attempts for users to promote or share content.
There may well be a market subset who truly want to pay for professional, not user-made, short-form content, to view on the go. Quibi would have provided answers to if this demand existed, and how much it was worth. For this subset of audience, it is by far the best positioned player to capitalise, even if it needed a few tweaks. Sadly, with the disruption caused by Covid-19, we may never quite know the answer. There currently exists no commuter market, nor will there be one in the near future. Quibi has confirmed that it will launch support for main set viewing, but further than this it seems difficult for the service to change pace now.
Due to lockdown, content production options are limited and isolation restricts the ability for businesses to make sweeping changes. Quibi must weather the storm and attempt a heavy relaunch once its market comes back online.