Quibi had a famously flawed launch in April that challenged its whole business proposition. Who needed mobile viewing when no one was leaving their homes amid pandemic lockdowns? And now, even the feature that is core to its name is facing questions. A prominent gripe about Quibi—short for “quick bites”—is just how short its shows are.
There have been complaints from early viewers, saying the episodes don’t lend to binge-watching. Of course, that’s because Quibi viewing was always meant to be the opposite of binging. The idea for the service was that it could be consumed in small doses with up to 10-minute episodes. But many of the assumptions baked into Quibi’s core principles were upended by its launch during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Their bet on a mobile-only, short-form entertainment environment hasn’t paid off,” says one ad agency executive, who works directly with brands that invested in Quibi. There are ongoing talks with the service about how it will evolve to meet the new realities of how it is being consumed, the exec says. Instead of mobile-only, Quibi already sped up its plan to make videos available for streaming on TVs.
Early advertisers of Quibi, brands that have been key partners since its launch, say they are in continuous talks with the company to consider how the service can improve and perhaps become a bigger draw. One of the suggestions that has emerged is longer episodes, and while Quibi may be reluctant to make such a dramatic change, it could tweak the user-experience to make the flow of viewing less clunky.
A Quibi spokeswoman says the service will retain its short shows, which is one of its main differentiators. Some viewers may complain on sites like Twitter, but the feedback has been mostly in favor of the short format, the spokeswoman says.
Quibi, founded by Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg and headed by CEO Meg Whitman, has some prestigious shows headlined by A-list talent. Though it’s been slow to catch on with viewers, it has been a hit with critics. Quibi landed 10 Emmy nominations for short-form programming. "I Promise" won best short-form series at the African American Film Critics Association.
Before its launch in April, Quibi signed 10 big-name advertisers including, Progressive, T-Mobile, Google, Taco Bell, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Walmart, General Mills, Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, representing about 25 brands. Those ad deals run through April 2021.
Quibi is negotiating with the sponsors that say the app has not reached its viewership goals, according to two advertising partners, who spoke on condition of anonymity. In those talks, Quibi has shared some details of how it plans to move forward with slight alterations to its original vision. For instance, Quibi has tested a free, ad-supported version in Australia. It is experimenting with how many ads it runs, too, with the possibility of playing two commercials before shows instead of one, according to the advertisers.