In late 2019, a very confident but very wrong man presented what he thought was a forward thinking and ground-breaking platform to his digital marketing agency colleagues, including his boss, his boss’s boss and several people he really wanted to seem smart in front of because of crippling self-esteem issues.
The brand-new platform he’d found that was going to revolutionise the marketing game?
After brushing up on his Steve Jobs mannerisms and working on his “I know something you don’t” walk, he waxed lyrical about how Quibi would storm in, capture the youth market and become one of the most used platforms in the world.
A mere year later, Quibi ceased to exist and the presenter was forced to eat humble pie.
But exactly how did this young and rakishly handsome man (who will remain nameless) get it so wrong and what the hell am I talking about?
To uncover exactly what went wrong with Quibi, you have to look at the vision that it’s founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman had for the platform.
Observing the trend of mobile first and shorter video content becoming more and more popular, Katzenberg (former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and CEO of DreamWorks) teamed up with Whitman (former CEO of eBay and Hewlett Packard) devised a streaming platform that would be specifically aimed at younger demographics. Their content would be limited to ten minute “quick bites” which is where the name Quibi came from.
They had a solid set of names involved in content production including Chrissy Teigen, Zac Efron, Chance the Rapper, Liam Hemsworth, Ariana Grande and Dwayne ‘I’m so sick I get an extra nickname’ ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
But to take on giants in the video content market like Youtube and Netflix, you need a secret sauce.
Quibi’s secret sauce? Shedloads of freaking money.
Seriously, the spending was crazy.
For every hour of content they created, Quibi were paying $6 million. That’s bonkers. Their goal was to spend $1.1 billion on content in their first year.
And the money wasn’t just going out, it was pouring in from investors as well.
In their short run, Quibi raises an eye watering $1.75 billion from huge names like PepsiCo, Walmart, BBC Studios, 21st Century Fox and Goldman Sachs.
But why didn’t it work?
Well the answers are complex and it’s far from my place to tell Katzenberg & Whitman what they should have done (hey guys, thanks for reading this article).
Initially, Katzenberg blamed everything on coronavirus, which seems strange considering how well other streaming services did, but it’s clear that the pandemic wasn’t the sole reason that Quibi failed.
A major problem was their content was incredibly hit or miss. They brought back Punk’d which is cool, but they also had a show called Golden Arm, which was about a lady who, you guessed it, had a fucking golden arm after an accident.
That’s not a story. That’s a parody of a Bond villain. It was just really hard to care about a lot of their content. Can you name a Quibi original? I can’t and I’ve spent ages researching them for this article. Well, Golden Arm but that doesn’t count because that will stick with me forever even though I don’t want it to.
Quibi's content just wasn’t up to scratch no matter how much money they threw at it. At the end of the day quality trumps quantity and big budgets. Look at Squid Game.
Also, Quibi marketed themselves terribly. I’m biased because I work in marketing, but Quibi failed to have any social media presence, no TV presence and absolutely no way for anyone to discover and interact with their brand. People won’t care unless you make them care. This is another reason that you can’t name any Quibi shows. They basically didn’t tell anyone.
Another problem was a lack of clarity over why they were doing this in the first place. They constantly assured investors they weren’t competing with Netflix although they definitely were. They stuck to their principle of mobile viewing, but the pandemic meant people would really appreciate the ability to play the content on their TV or computer. You know, in the room they were spending almost all of their time. On-the-go content viewing wasn’t going to work when no one was going anywhere, but they didn’t pivot quick enough at all.
They refused to accept and learn from competitors whilst ignoring what they were doing was different, but not better. I’m going to write an article on where this big tech mindset of disruption for disruption’s sake, but Quibi just plowed on into the wilderness in the complete wrong direction.
I can’t think of a good exit for this blog except know when to take your L and adjust, so here’s a clip from Golden Arm because none of you are reading now anyway because the second I mentioned Golden Arm you went to Youtube to watch it.