Things aren’t looking too good for Quibi. The short-form streaming service launched back in April, right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. That wasn’t good for a content provider that was hoping to give commuters movies and shows to watch in bite-sized chunks, especially when the programming was made specifically for consumption on mobile devices and wasn’t able to be played on televisions. Now that that the three-month free trial period for Quibi users has ended, the service has reportedly lost over 90% of their initial subscriber base. Yikes.
The Verge obtained mobile analytics from Sensor Tower, which reveals that, of the roughly 910,000 users who signed up for Quibi at launch in April, only 72,000 of them remain after the three-month trial recently ended. That means they were only able to convince around 8% of their subscribers to convert to paying customers. This comes after Quibi was reportedly hoping to land 7.5 million subscribers in the first year of service, though a spokesperson said that number was inaccurate without explaining why.
For their part, Quibi says Sensor Tower’s numbers aren’t accurate either. A spokesperson for the streaming service said:
“The number of paid subscribers is incorrect by an order of magnitude. To date, over 5.6 million people have downloaded the Quibi app. Our conversion from download to trial is above mobile app benchmarks, and we are seeing excellent conversion to paid subscribers — both among our 90-day free trial sign-ups from April, as well as our 14-day free trial sign-ups from May and June.”
Sensor Tower’s numbers paint a different picture, counting only 4.5 million downloads. And judging by the subscriber numbers so far, if the conversion rate stays consistent, Quibi would only hit around 360,000 paid subscribers in the first year. However, Randy Nelson, Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights, told Protocol, “We’re seeing some indication that the conversion rate may be improving slightly with time.” That means the numbers could rise and Quibi’s place in the entertainment world could be looking up. Perhaps it’s being helped by the recent makeshift remake of The Princess Bride that was created by various celebrities acting out all the different scenes from the movie.
It should be noted that the conversion number may not actually be as bad as it sounds. For example, after Disney+ launched, they were only able to convert around 11% of their free trial customers to becoming paid subscribers. At the same time, that’s 11% of the 9.5 million people who signed up for the service in the first three days, and that’s infinitely better than the numbers that Quibi is throwing up. As of April, five months after launch, Disney+ had over 50 million paying users.
But no matter how you slice it, things just haven’t been looking good for Quibi. While part of the problem is certainly the severe lack of commuters in the age of COVID-19, I’m not sure that Quibi is offering programming that demands to be seen. Even right after launch the app quickly dropped out of the top 40 app charts in the United States, and that was when it was free to sign up. Since then, Quibi has been said to be on track to lose half a billion dollars, and executives at the company are taking a 10% pay cut to stay afloat.
Perhaps the biggest mistake Quibi made was waiting over a month to make their content available to stream through airplay from mobile devices. It’s only just recently become available on Amazon Fire and Roku devices too, and it just feels like too little, too late.
Personally, I had Quibi installed on my phone at launch, and after glancing at the initial wave of programming and hearing reviews from colleagues, I never went out of my way to watch anything. Even after I had the ability to airplay it on my TV, I couldn’t be bothered, especially with all the other entertainment options out there. It seems like thousands of others may have had a similar experience.
Will Quibi be able to survive once life returns to normal? Only time will tell. But since we don’t have any idea when that might happen, Quibi may not have much time left to figure it out.
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