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Katzenberg blames virus for Quibi woes

Jeffrey Katzenberg has blamed the underwhelming consumer response to recently launched shortform video app Quibi entirely on the coronavirus pandemic.

Jeffrey Katzenberg

Speaking to The New York Times, the former head of Walt Disney Studios said the consumer response to the app wasn’t “close to what we wanted.”

Quibi launched in the US, Canada, UK and Germany last month, reaching 1.7 million downloads in its first week, according to CEO Meg Whitman, who co-founded the company alongside Katzenberg.

Since then, Quibi says it has been downloaded 3.5 million times and of those who have installed the app, 1.3 million are active users.

“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything. But we own it,” said Katzenberg.

The app, which costs US$4.99 per month and US$7.99 ad-free but is available with a free 90-day trial, features high-end content featuring Hollywood stars and is designed to be viewed on the go, with episodes of less than 10 minutes long.

However, with large numbers of people stuck at home during lockdown, the “in between moments” Quibi was targeting for people to view its content have disappeared.

Whitman said last month Quibi would need about 12 million paying subscribers to break even, having channelled just shy of US$2bn into getting the service off the ground.

Quibi recently dropped out of the top 50 most downloaded free apps in Apple’s iStore.

Asked if launching during the pandemic had been a mistake, Katzenberg added: “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 platform is also facing a legal battle with New York-based tech company Eko, which is suing it over its Turnstyle technology which allows viewers to watch programmes in both landscape and portrait mode on their devices.

Eko is seeking an injunction against the use of the tech and has received backing for its case from activist investment firm Elliott Management Corp.


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