Quibi’s quick-bite originals are now streaming on three connected-TV device platforms — Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV and Google TV/Android TV. But there might be nothing that can save Jeffrey Katzenberg’s struggling mobile subscription-video startup at this point.
Quibi launched six months ago, at the front end of the COVID pandemic, stubbornly sticking to its original vision of a built-for-mobile viewing experience as millions of people were stuck at home. Katzenberg and other Quibi execs had insisted its content was meant to be watched on smartphones, and the company treated the living room as an afterthought.
As Variety reported in June, Quibi was in talks to bring the service to connected-TV devices as a native app, including Fire TV and Roku, in a scramble to win more subscribers. For now, the startup hasn’t been able to swing a pact with Roku.
The Quibi apps for Apple TV, Fire TV and Google TV/Android TV (including on the recently launched Chromecast, which now includes a remote) launched on Monday (Oct. 19). All of the content on Quibi’s TV apps is displayed in landscape format, whereas the mobile app uses a feature called Turnstyle (which is the subject of ongoing litigation) to toggle between vertical and landscape mode.
“Love our mobile app? Great news! We’ve taken all the awesome Quibi content and made it available on your TV,” Quibi says in an update on its customer-support site. Earlier this summer, Quibi added support for Apple’s AirPlay (to let users launch streams on Apple TV boxes and other compatible devices from mobile apps) and Google’s Chromecast and Chromecast-integrated TVs.
But Quibi, by all accounts, has missed its subscriber signup goals despite writing checks for big-budget originals. Katzenberg — the former movie mogul who raised $1.75 billion from studios and other investors for the venture — has cited the coronavirus pandemic for the company’s disappointing results. In reality, Quibi faces intense competition in the subscription-streaming market against heavyweights like Netflix and Disney Plus, and Quibi’s absence on connected TVs has obviously hurt uptake. At the same time, Quibi is vying against a gusher of free short-form video content on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and other apps.
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Katzenberg was exploring “strategic options” for Quibi including a potential sale. The Quibi founder pitched a sale of the company — which has about 500,000 paying customers — to Apple, WarnerMedia and Facebook but was rebuffed, the Information reported, citing anonymous sources. Katzenberg, per a new report by the Information this week, also struck out in his attempt to sell Quibi’s programming rights to companies including NBCUniversal and Facebook — and now Katzenberg has “told people in the industry that he may have to shut down the company,” per the report, citing an anonymous source.
Quibi has commissioned original shows, paying up to $100,000 per minute of programming, from A-listers including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez, Sam Raimi, Idris Elba, Chrissy Teigen, Antoine Fuqua, Lena Waithe, Anna Kendrick, Rachel Brosnahan, Issa Rae, Kevin Hart, Steven Soderbergh and the Kardashians. In September, Quibi picked up two Emmys for Antoine Fuqua’s “#FreeRayshawn,” with Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones winning acting laurels in the short-form category.
To watch Quibi on the connected-TV apps, users must have a Quibi account ($4.99/month with ads and $7.99/month without). Once the channel or app is added to Apple TV, Fire TV/Fire TV Stick or Google TV, you can sign in using an activation code or using your email/password.
The Quibi apps are available for Amazon’s Fire TV/Fire TV Stick and Android TV running Android OS 7.1 (API level 25 or higher) and on Apple TV 4th generation or later set-tops.