quibi losses

Oh, Quibi, Quibi, Quibi. Like Icarus, you flew too close to the sun with wings made of wax. And by that I mean you attempted to launch a new streaming service that no one seemed particularly interested in. And it looks like it’s going to cost you to the tune of half a billion dollars. However, Quibi isn’t out of business yet, and the short-form streaming service still has enough money to keep the lights on. But for how long?

I feel bad for Quibi. I guess I really shouldn’t, since it was created by obscenely wealthy people who have money to burn. But still, the media reaction to the short-form streaming service seemed overly hostile from the get-go. And to be fair, there are a handful of good originals available on the service. But the odds were not in Quibi’s favor. For one thing, the service is only available via mobile devices, which doesn’t appeal to everyone. For another, Quibi’s whole pitch was that it was a streaming service for people on the go. You would watch a 5 or 10-minute episode on your commute to work, or your lunch break, or when you’re slacking off at your desk. But due to the coronavirus, no one is really “on the go” anymore. We’re all stuck at home, which makes the Quibi approach kind of obsolete.

The streaming service had a less-than-great launch, and according to an article in the WSJ, it could stand to lose a huge chunk of change:

Getting the venture off the ground has been costly. Before the pandemic, the company was anticipating some $550 million in operating losses in 2020, with programming and advertising costs outstripping revenue, according to the projections.

However, Quibi has been fundraising, and ended up with a “recent $750 million funding round” that provided a “cash cushion.” The Quibi app has reportedly been downloaded 3.1 million times, which isn’t that bad. But here’s the catch: the service is offering a 90-day free trial. How many of the people who downloaded the app for the free trial are going to stick with it, and start shelling out money?

Quibi “anticipated more than $400 million in revenue in its first year, including over $250 million in subscription revenue,” and has not revised those projections, even in the light of a soft debut. “Looking at where we are today, the challenge was greater than I thought…when we made the decision,” said Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg is holding out hope that when the pandemic dissipates and people get back to their normal lives, Quibi will be facing “conditions it was designed to be used in.”

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