After launching more than a month ago, entertainment svengali Jeffrey Katzenberg is speaking out about the early travails of launching mobile video app Quibi in the midst of a global pandemic.
“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” Katzenberg tells The New York Times of Quibi’s launch. “Everything. But we own it.” This is because Quibi — which chops its premium shows into short-form episodes — was designed to be consumed in stolen moments, such as during a commute or while waiting in line. Quarantining measures the world over have made such moments temporarily obsolete.
Quibi was a big bet, having raised $1.8 billion in venture funding to build out a star-studded programming slate. Thus far, app downloads have been fairly unremarkable; Quibi told the Times that it has clocked 3.5 million downloads and counts 1.3 million active users. Prior to its launch, the company was projecting 7 million users and $250 million in subscriber revenues for its first year.
“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,” Katzenberg said. “If we knew on March 1, which is when we had to make the call, what we know today, you would say that is not a good idea,” he said of changing the app’s April 6 launch date. “The answer is, it’s regrettable. But we are making enough gold out of hay here that I don’t regret it.”
While Quibi weathers numerous storms, including a lawsuit from tech company Eko and a data-sharing scandal, the company is adapting. Rolling out this week is the ability for iPhone users to watch Quibi content on TV, and also enabling users to share content on social media. Katzenberg also remarked that interest in Quibi’s news programming — from NBC, BBC, Telemundo, and ESPN — has been minimal, and that the app will slow the release of new content (given that countless productions have been shuttered due to the pandemic) so that it will be able to offer new shows through 2021.
You can read more from Katzenberg on Quibi’s launch in his exclusive interview with the Times.