Quibi will launch its much anticipated new platform on April 6th. It hopes to find a niche in the crowded streaming world by focusing on short form content – bite-sized episodes able to be digested in 10 minutes or less. This strategy aims to succeed in the attention economy by giving viewers content they can consume in the small windows of time throughout the day that are not long enough for a traditional length episode (think commutes, waiting in line, etc.). However, the upheaval caused by the ongoing covid-19 pandemic has complicated even the best-laid plans.
It remains to be seen if the current global situation will be a benefit or a detriment to Quibi. On the one hand millions of viewers are now trapped inside looking for entertainment to fill their time. But, Quibi’s strategy is centered on filling in gaps of time in a viewer's day that might not exist in a locked down world. Our goal here is to give some context to how the launch might play out in these strange times.
The chart above shows social demand for all shows in the US YTD in 2019 and 2020. This component of demand captures people expressing demand for shows on social media. The divergence between this year and last is stark from Feb-19 onward. In 2020 social demand is up 30% from this date while in 2019 it is down 30% in the same time. This time period aligns with the acceleration of the pandemic in the US and the imposition of lockdown measures. Audiences have been more active on social media during this time. This potentially bodes well for the Quibi launch for two reasons:
First, Quibi’s short form content likely competes for people’s attention with social media more than traditional full length shows. Given a 10 minute chunk of free time viewers probably decide between scrolling through Facebook or watching a short form video, rather than using that time to watch part of a standard length show. If people are spending more time on social media, that represents more opportunities for Quibi to fit into their day.
Second, the increase in social media activity likely means people are spending more time on their phones. Quibi was envisioned for viewing on the go and part of their risk with people at home is that mobile use would decline. That does not seem to be the case.
The chart above shows pre-release demand in March for the most in-demand Quibi shows. Chrissy’s Court had an astronomical spike in demand in the final week of March. While it has returned to levels of demand comparable to other shows, it is still well ahead of other Quibi series approaching launch day. This show’s success in particular could be tied to increased social media activity – Chrissy Teigen (the star of Chrissy’s Court) is an Instagram celebrity in her own right and has been making the most of lockdown on social media.
Digging into Quibi’s biggest shows other than Chrissy’s Court we can see they have taken different trajectories in the lead up to launch day. Both Flipped and The Fugitive saw spikes beginning on March 16, with Flipped skyrocketing to be the most in demand series after Chrissy’s Court. Murder House Flip had a late surge and has surpassed the other series to be second most in-demand as of March 31. The Stranger and Survive are both on a downward trend. The Stranger was the most in-demand Quibi series for a time in February, even surpassing Chrissy’s Court. This shows that early demand does not necessarily have staying power.
Notably absent from the top shows are Quibi’s “Daily Essentials”, a key part of its strategy (Jeffrey Katzenberg himself has referred to these as the platform’s “secret sauce”). These shows are meant to be daily instalments of current events focused content. Production of these has been impacted with many hosts now filming from home. We have seen that the covid-19 pandemic has most negatively impacted these genres where live filming has been disrupted (eg. Talk Shows, Late Night Shows, and Live Sketch Comedy). Quibi should expect demand for these shows to be reduced due to the outbreak and plan accordingly.