Jeffrey Katzenberg blames Quibi’s slow uptake on Covid-19

Jeffrey Katzenberg has admitted that the performance of his shortform streamer Quibi has been “not close to what we wanted” since its launch in April, but blamed the lack of uptake on Covid-19.

Quibi said it has been downloaded 3.5 million times to date, with 1.3 million active users, far short of its target to attract seven million users in its first year.

But Dreamworks founder Katzenberg attributed the limp launch of the service, which costs $4.99 with ads or $7.99 without and offers shows with episodes of 10-minutes or less, entirely down to Covid-19.

“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to Coronavirus. Everything. But we own it,” he said, during an interview with The New York Times.

“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.”

Impact of lockdown

The ambition to provide a service that could allow viewers to fill short amounts of their downtime with content has been transformed by lockdowns around the world, which have left viewers with considerably more free time.

Katzenberg said that 80% of users were finishing episodes they started, adding that he does not regret launching the app – which is available in the US, the UK, Germany and Canada – as planned on 6 April.

“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. The answer is, it’s regrettable. But we are making enough gold out of hay here that I don’t regret it.”

The service’s launch slate included four ‘movies in chapters’ (full length movies split into chunks between four and 10 minutes), unscripted shows such as the reboot of MTV’s Punk’d, and scripted shows, including the Liam Hemsworth-Christoph Waltz starring Most Dangerous Game.

Quibi said that it will release new videos every day, while companies on both sides of the Atlantic producing content for the new service. Dating format The Hot Drop is in the works with ITV Studios Entertainment (ITVSE), while natural history show Fierce Queens (working title) is being produced by BBC Studio’s Natural History Unit.

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