After a lukewarm launch and less-than-encouraging revelations about the company’s subscription figures, Quibi’s senior executives will take pay cuts as the short-form streaming service looks to cut costs.
Quibi’s chief executive Meg Whitman and its founder Jeffrey Katzenberg will each take a 10 per cent hit to their salaries, according to a copy of an internal memo shared with Gizmodo. In that correspondence, Katzenberg and Whitman wrote that the company was looking “for ways to tighten our belt,” but said that Quibi was “in a good financial position” and said the company has recently brought on “a dozen” new employees.
“In regard to tightening our belt, our senior leadership team has volunteered to take a 10% pay cut because it’s the right thing to do,” Katzenberg and Whitman wrote. “We are excited about the future. As we shared in our most recent company meeting, the best is yet to come. We are confident in Quibi and the work that you are creating every day.”
They further said that Quibi is “not laying off staff as a part of cost saving measures.” However, that messaging appears to conflict with a report from the Wall Street Journal — which first reported the pay cuts — about internal discussions about further cash-saving measures. Citing a source familiar with the matter, the paper reported that the company has “discussed” layoffs for roughly 10 per cent of the company’s 250 employees. When asked about the rumoured layoffs, a Quibi spokesperson said it has already renewed at least two shows, Thanks A Million and Dishmantled, and plans to announce more renewals “in the near future.”
Quibi has yet to break the 2 million subscriber threshold, according to the Journal, despite offering a promo deal for 3 months of free streaming prior to its launch (though it’s netted 4.5 million downloads). By comparison, even struggling Apple TV+ is said to have signed up around 10 million subscribers by February even with its lean library of originals. Disney+, which launched around the same time as Apple’s streaming service, had a staggering 54 million subscriptions as of May, while CBS All Access and Showtime — which have been around much longer but aren’t goliaths in the space — recently reported a combined 13.5 million subscriptions.
A thing to keep in mind is that Quibi really, really tried to reinvent the wheel with its goofy Turnstyle technology — which, by the way, Quibi is currently being sued over — and its own stubborn insistence that we all watch its videos exclusively on our phones, an already stupid demand of users who prefer streaming on the largest possible screen. Quibi did, in fact, roll out TV sreencasting support last week for Apple TV users, but it’s possible the feature has already arrived too late. Quibi’s moment to shine has come and gone, as newer services like HBO Max and Peacock roll out to users while others, like Apple TV+, continue to beef up their catalogues.
All of this is to say there simply isn’t much of a case for using Quibi right now — not with the number of streaming options available across devices that are practically giving their services away for free. And listen, I was rooting for Quibi — I really was. But Quibi always seemed like a service nobody really asked for. Pandemic or not, it’s starting to look like one that viewers don’t actually want either.