Jeffrey Katzenberg Faults COVID-19 Pandemic for Quibi’s Bumpy Launch

Quibi will house 175 TV shows and 35 movies during its first year, boasting three hours of daily original content. Unfortunately its launch wasn't great.

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quibi covid

Quibi’s launch didn’t live up to co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg’s expectations. Now he’s blamed the disappointing debut figures on the coronavirus pandemic. “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything. But we own it,” Katzenberg told the New York Times.

He also suggested that he laments not suspending the app's April 6 launch. “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,” Katzenberg continued. “The answer is, it’s regrettable, but we are making enough gold out of hay here that I don’t regret it.”

Since its release, Quibi has been downloaded 2.9 million times, a figure that encompasses users who joined via the 90-day free trial, TheWrap reports. CEO Meg Whitman told the outlet that 1.75 million users signed up for the app during its opening week.

“I am very pleased with where we are, especially only five weeks in,” Whitman told the Wrap, sharing that Quibi has had closer to 3.5 million downloads. “The good news is, we now have customers and we are learning more about what those customers want.”

While the app temporarily peaked at No. 3 on the Apple app store, it was bumped from that position within a week of its debut. Quibi initially anticipated it would have 7 million registered subscribers and earn around $250 million in 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 told the Times.

Many streaming services have benefitted from the nationwide self-isolation, as more people are staying at home and relying on the internet for entertainment. However, Quibi has been promoted as something to use during “in-between moments,” like commuting or waiting in line, which the public is doing less of during quarantine.

“My hope, my belief was that there would still be many in-between moments while sheltering in place,” Katzenberg said. “There are still those moments, but it’s not the same. It’s out of sync.”

Quibi also might be hurting because its shows can only be watched on mobile devices and can’t be cast to smart televisions.

When asked what he thought of TikTok’s looming success, Katzenberg told the Times, “That’s like comparing apples to submarines. I don’t know what people are expecting from us. What did Netflix look like 30 days after it launched? To tell me about a company that has a billion users and is doing great in the past six weeks, I’m happy for them, but what the hell does it have to do with me?”

Quibi costs $4.99 for the ad-supported version and $7.99 for ad-free. According to the Wrap, the app will be home to 175 TV shows and 35 movies during its opening year, and set to share three hours of original content every day.

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