Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg is blaming the coronavirus for Quibi’s bumpy start.
The short-form mobile video app, whose name is short for “quick bites,” gained 1.7 million views in its first week after an April 6 launch. But it quickly fell off the Apple Store’s 50 most downloaded free iPhone apps after and is currently ranked at No. 125.
“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” Katzenberg said in an interview with the New York Times published Monday. “Everything. But we own it.”
Initially, Katzenberg, who built the app with former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, had put on a brave face. Despite worries that most people were hunkering down at home and watching TV instead of their phones, he told The Post that Quibi is “not competing with TV” or “streaming services.”
Even though are “rhythms and habits have been upended,” we “still all have in-between times” to watch Quibi, he added last month.
Quibi — which has corralled stars like Jennifer Lopez, LeBron James, Liam Hemsworth and Sophie Turner to create its bite-size shows — had originally projected 7 million users in its first year. It was banking on consumers viewing episodes of its shows — the majority of which are shorter than 10 minutes — to be viewed on the go, during a subway commute or while waiting in line.
That forecast now looks unlikely. Quibi has been downloaded 3.5 million times and 1.3 million of those who downloaded the app are “active users,” the service said. While consumers are streaming more content than ever while quarantining at home, they are primarily watching longer shows on bigger screens, giving streamers like Netflix a boost.
“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.”
With 80 percent of users finishing episodes they start, the exec said: “My hope, my belief was that there would still be many in-between moments while sheltering in place. … There are still those moments, but it’s not the same. It’s out of sync.”
Quibi features a 90-day free trial and costs $4.99 a month with ads and $7.99 a month after that period.
Given disappointing figures, Katzenberg said: “Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch? The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted.”
Quibi is working on new revenue projections and decreasing its marketing budget.
But even before there was any whiff of a global pandemic, Quibi faced criticism — chief among them that the service was entering an already crowded streaming landscape, as consumers are flocking to other short-form video apps like TikTok, YouTube and Snap, which have seen an explosion in use during the pandemic.
When asked by the Times about the success of TikTok, Katzenberg gave a testy reply.
“That’s like comparing apples to submarines,” he said. “I don’t know what people are expecting from us. What did Netflix look like 30 days after it launched? To tell me about a company that has a billion users and is doing great in the past six weeks, I’m happy for them, but what the hell does it have to do with me?”