To nobody’s surprise, mobile-video startup Quibi announced it’s shutting down for good. Having only been in service for about six months, it’s been riddled with problems at launch that carried into the ensuing months. Here’s a deeper look into four major problems Quibi faced that shows how the company not only lacked a basic understanding of digital behaviors, but also failed to adapt to the glaring insights that unfolded in the following months.
Preventing social sharing
Quibi’s main problem is that it was designed strictly for consumption in mind. Macro level trends would have shown them that mobile phone usage was at an all-time high for streaming services. However, what they failed to understand is that the strength of streaming services is around how easily shareable the content is. This is one of the strengths that Netflix has achieved in the last year; popular series such as Stranger Things have gotten the traction they have because of the ability to share GIFs, clips and screenshots of the content. Restricting sharing is antithetical to what makes social media “social.” That inability to share harmed Quibi right at from the start.
Limiting in-app social actions
Streaming services such as TikTok achieve success by building a community of people within the app who share, comment, like and create content themselves. Even though sharing doesn’t fit into Quibi, the lack of the other features makes the app feel one-dimensional in its presentation. There’s no place for people to discuss the episodes, curate their favorite clips or share within one another. What Quibi does instead is treat its users as one-time consumers of the app who watch the content and leave. When the relationship you create with your users is one dimensional, the user in turn will interact less with you.
Lack of “social-first” produced content
Quibi’s most glaring fault was its lack of compelling content. It was clear from the production value and content that the type of shows Quibi produced could be described as daytime dramas that were cheesy and uninteresting. If Quibi removed the vertical aspect of the shows, they could live on any other platform. This is where TikTok excels; the content created for the platform is made by digital native creators. These creators understand the pacing, the timing and behaviors on social well enough that the content they produce draws you in while feeling familiar and natural. When you put Hollywood in charge of creating what people want, you end up with concepts that are misses than hits.
Quibi’s demise can be attributed to its lack of flexibility. When the pandemic hit and digital behaviors completely shifted, it focused too much on maintaining its original plan of marketing its format for content. As the problems listed above began to stack up, Quibi turned a blind eye and was slow to adapt to the change. Instead of keeping up with the pace of social media, Quibi fell behind while its competitors continued to innovate and make mobile consumption more fun and easier.
While Quibi might disappear, competitors such as Snapchat show hints that there’s still a market for mobile streaming. Serialized mobile content can be done with tapping the right creators in apps where people are already consuming content. I foresee IGTV and TikTok being the right players to take Quibi’s idea and launch their own series—powered by the creators people have come to know and love.