Jeffrey Katzenberg's Ego Decides That COVID-19 Must Be Why Quibi Totally Sucks And No One Wants It

from the yeah,-sure,-jeff,-that's-it dept

A few weeks back, we went into detail on why Quibi was such a total disaster from Day 1, which can pretty much be summed up by the fact that Hollywood thinks the way you build something people want is to throw tons of money at it (and fudge the books on the back end), while refusing to understand that getting people to actually like what you want -- by making it convenient and building community -- matters. Hollywood overvalues throwing money at big name content makers, and completely ignores the tech, community, and social side of things. And Quibi just makes that whole thing abundantly clear.

However, as Quibi sinks further and further away from relevance, and gets closer and closer to a footnote in a future "whatever happened to....?" story, the mastermind behind the clusterfuck, Jeffrey Katzenberg (formerly of Disney and Dreamworks), has decided that, no, no, the blame belongs entirely with the COVID-19 pandemic, and not with anything that he or his team did wrong:

“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus,” Mr. Katzenberg said in a video interview. “Everything. But we own it.”

If you attribute everything to the pandemic then no, Jeff, you don't own it. And, things do not look good at all:

Quibi fell out of the list of the 50 most downloaded free iPhone apps in the United States a week after it went live on April 6. It is now ranked No. 125, behind the game app Knock’em All and the language-learning app Duolingo, according to the analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Either way, the idea that pandemic lockdown would reduce demand for Quibi seems like a convenient excuse -- given that plenty of people have more time on their hands, and basically every other streaming service saw traffic go up, often significantly since the pandemic began.

Katzenberg's nonsense excuse is that he and his Hollywood pals designed Quibi to be used for the "downtime" between life -- like for standing in line or during commutes, and there's less commuting and standing in line right now. But... that seems like pure wishful thinking, especially since other types of "quick bite" content have seen their numbers go up. The NY Times reporter asks Katzenberg about TikTok, which also focuses on very short "quick bites" of video content, and whose usage has also continued to increase during lockdown, and Katzenberg seems to explode at her:

“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?”

Hey, look, if the submarines and the apples are targeting the same market -- viewer attention for video content in quick bites -- then, uh, it seems to matter quite a bit. But, I guess when you don't want to admit that you're completely flopping, denying the competition is the competition is one strategy. Not a good one, mind you, but it is one strategy.

Katzenberg does note that Quibi will finally start to do the kinds of things that it should have done from the beginning, like not forcing you to only watch from your phone and (gasp) letting people make screenshots and share them:

Mr. Katzenberg and Ms. Whitman have backpedaled on their original commitment to a smartphone-only app. This week, Quibi subscribers who have iPhones will be able to watch movies-in-chapters like “Most Dangerous Game” and shows like “Chrissy’s Court” on TV screens. (Android users will have to wait a few more weeks.)

Also coming soon, Mr. Katzenberg said: Quibi will be less walled off from the internet, and users will be able to share its content on social media platforms.

But, of course, even there, Katzenberg plays down the importance of these kinds of things, suggesting that Quibi got this all "mostly right" and they're just fixing a few small issues, ignoring that these few small issues were the kinds of things that make or break an internet product.

“There are a whole bunch of things we have now seen in the product that we thought we got mostly right,” he said, “but now that there are hundreds of people on there using it, you go, ‘Uh-oh, we didn’t see that.’”

It's one thing not to see a unique product feature that might be nice, but not realizing that community and sharing would be important is not a small miss. That's pretty much the ballgame for a new consumer service these days. Katzenberg, though, has that traditional Hollywood broadcast mind of "we, the rich and powerful, make the content, and you the lowly public consumes the content." But that's not what people want and it's not want people have wanted in ages -- and it's why Hollywood keeps getting this wrong over and over again.

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Filed Under: blame, covid-19, hollywood, jeffrey katzenberg, streaming
Companies: quibi

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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 12 May 2020 @ 10:49am

    …now that there are hundreds of people on there using it…

    Jeffrey may have revealed more about Quibi than he meant to reveal with that.

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