Quibi, the (mostly) mobile-only streaming service that launched this week, doesn’t appear to have had a spectacular response straight out of the gate—in fact, the response was rather abysmal. According to one preliminary estimate, Quibi’s launch-day downloads amounted to roughly 300,000 despite all its pre-launch marketing and hype coming out of this year’s CES just a few months ago.
The estimate—it includes downloads for both the United States and Canada—comes from analytics outfit Sensor Tower, which specialises in data insights for apps and in a new report compared the app’s launch day metrics against those of popular streaming like Disney+, which saw a staggering 4 million downloads on day one. Comparing the two seems absurd, though, given the scale of Disney’s catalogue, bundles available with ESPN+ and Hulu, as well as Disney’s accessibility across platforms. The army of die-hard Disney fans—not to mention those of its Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel franchises—made that 4 million figure feel wholly unsurprising.
Still, a meager 300,000 downloads feels especially small considering Quibi managed to raise nearly $US2 ($3) billion dollars before it even launched. Its whole gimmick—serving up high-quality, short-form content of 10 minutes or less that you can watch on your phone during breaks or while on the go—was billed as the future of entertainment, leaning heavily on its signature Turnstyle feature that allows users to watch in both landscape and portrait because shows are shot for not one, but both orientations.
It’s possible that Quibi got off to a rough start because so many people are at home right now, and its whole use case just doesn’t make as much sense for viewers who prefer to stream content on the largest possible stream. (Quibi doesn’t allow you to cast, but you can download a version of the iPhone app to an iPad—though it’s not ideal.) And while critics are by no means always right, the apparent ambivalence and, in some cases, hatred of Quibi’s entire concept—in addition to a midday service outage—probably didn’t help the service’s case, despite the company making its service free to users for 90 days.
Here’s the thing about Quibi: Its content skews young and it feels like an app made primarily for a demographic who don’t mind streaming on their phones. (I’m talking, of course, about the teens.) Because the service launched with some 50 shows, it probably does have something for everyone, but it’s unlikely on-the-fence viewers will be able to easily find what they’re looking for given the app’s oddly organised interface these. And even if they do, again, there’s the whole tiny screen limitation. It’s quite possible Quibi will see a ton more use when people start leaving their homes again and have more of a reason to be watching on mobile in their everyday life.
Still, the first numbers don’t look great for a company that launched with god-levels of funding and touted its technology as the best new thing in entertainment. Not at all. And the company’s going to have to work a little harder to lure potential viewers if it doesn’t want to fade into the background of an increasingly crowded streaming services space.