The WSJ has spent a lot of time tearing apart the Quibi carcas. Ultimately, the media has spent far more time covering Quibi than people spent watching Quibi shows.
When I had breakfast with Jeffrey Katzenberg in the summer 2018, his main argument was that mobile had changed consumption habits, so you needed to re-think storytelling. Taking on the likes of Netflix, Youtube, Snap or Tiktok stood somewhere between the improbable and impossible, and it turned out to be impossible, especially if you go in with a series of assumptions that are fundamental wrong.
For one, distribution isn’t silo’d anymore. You can watch WatchMojo on your smart screen, and may binge watch Game of Thrones on your mobile device in bed. For Quibi to limit itself to mobile was dumbfounding at best. The only plausible explanation was that seeing Insta or TikTok as mobile-first/mobile-only, then it may have sounded cool to say “Quibi is only mobile.”
A missed opportunity? People who have commented that all of that money could have gone to “traditional startups” or “female founders” (who have in aggregate raised less than Quibi’s haul) overlook the reality that those media & entertainment companies would have never invested in anything, or anyone else. To have all of those rights holders back one entity and said entity not leverage their archives and IP, and instead just take their cash seems like a missed opportunity.
From comparative advantage to Achilles Heel. The best entrepreneurs and executives turn threats into opportunities, and somehow channel their weakness to become some kind of competitive advantage. Thanks to Quibi’s warchest, they offered generous production budgets to creators, which was arguably their biggest competitive advantage. That drew a who’s who list of Hollywood creators. Quibi didn’t need to also assign ownership to those creators given the rich budgets. Giving the storytellers the ability to retain IP makes sense if the budgets are underwhelming; Quibi’s were anything but.
From Pop.com to Go90 and now Quibi, this isn’t the first attempt to put nine women in a room and hope to come out with a healthy baby a month later – and it won’t be the last.
While Quibi aimed to take on Netflix in the SVOD game, future attempts may be focused a bit more on sensible and sustainable AVOD bets. With Covid doing to TV advertising what the 2008 econocalypse did to print, that $75B in TV advertising will flow faster to the Web, and that means whomever prevails in the AVOD universe will reap the benefits.