Quibi, the new mobile-focused streaming service led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, is on pace to fall well below its first-year subscriber goal, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
The service, which launched in early April with about $1.75 billion in funding, and a laundry list of stars signed on to make content, looks like it will finish 2020 with less than 2 million paying subscribers, one unnamed source told the WSJ — putting Quibi well below its target of 7.4 million subscribers by the end of the year.
So far, Quibi has about 4 million downloads, according to Sensor Tower. (The company told The New York Times its download figure is closer to 4.6 million.) Many of the people initially downloading the app have been using a free 90-day trial; it remains to be seen how many of those early downloads will translate into paying customers. Quibi costs $4.99 for ad-supported streaming and $7.99 for ad-free streaming.
The WSJ report comes just a few days after Whitman told The New York Times Quibi’s struggles have been compounded by “truly pivotal and unprecedented times,” as the U.S. struggles with both the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
TheWrap recently spoke with a number of early Quibi users and found the app falls short in three key areas: content, technical features and marketing. Quibi’s critics also took jabs at the company last month, after founder Jeffrey Katzenberg told The New York Times that “everything” about the app’s underwhelming launch stems from the coronavirus pandemic. Both Katzenberg and Quibi were then widely criticized on Twitter.
Whitman and Katzenberg’s working relationship got off to a rocky start, with Whitman threatening to quit in 2018, according to the latest WSJ report. “In May 2018, she laid out a list of problems to Mr. Katzenberg: He had been dictatorial, treating her like one of his underlings. He interrupted employees, including her, in meetings. His interactions at the company had often been belittling and demeaning. He had a tendency to micromanage. He wasn’t letting her be a true CEO,” the WSJ reported. Two years later, the two executives, with decades of entertainment and business experience between them, are looking to rebound from Quibi’s inauspicious debut.