Quibi, the short-form online video service, had 1.7 million downloads of its mobile application within a week of launch in the United States and Canada. Originally pitched as a mobile service offering ‘quick bites’ of programming for people on the go, the timing of its launch during the coronavirus pandemic means that many potential users will be restricted to their homes. The company is now bringing forward plans to allow videos to be cast from phones to television screens, which rather undermines its original ‘mobile only’ premise.
Speaking on the CNBC programme Squawk on the Street, Quibi chief executive Meg Whitman said: “It didn’t hurt us at all”.
“We had 1.7 million downloads in the first week, which exceeded our plans and expectations,” she said, describing it as one of the most successful launches of a completely new brand. “We thought the in-between moments would be out and about commuting,” she said, “but it turns out people have in-between moments at home”.
While the number of downloads may be higher than analysts had predicted, it is far fewer than the 10 million sign-ups that Disney reported receiving on the first day of the much-anticipated launch of its online video service in the United States.
Quibi is offering an ad-supported version of the app for $4.99 a month and an ad-free version for $7.99. Launching with a 90-day free trial, the key question is how many of those that sample the service will stay around to pay a monthly subscription.
The company has pre-sold advertising to a number of category sponsors, so is protected from a downturn in advertising, at least for its first year. It has also banked a lot of programming before launch and says it has enough to last until November.
If the challenges of coronavirus were not enough, Quibi faces a legal challenge over its key differentiating technology.
In February, Quibi was granted a patent on its ‘Turnstyle’ technology, which allows programming to be shot and viewed in either portrait or landscape orientation. A company called Eko has since sought an injunction against Quibi for allegedly infringing one of its patents and using its proprietary technology.
Quibi says that it developed the Turnstyle technology internally. It said the claims have no merit and it will vigorously defend against them in court.