Not a whole lot of people who sampled Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Quibi premium mobile-streaming app for free are forking over money to pay for it after their gratis trial periods expired, according to new research estimates. The data adds fuel to questions about whether Quibi will be able to successfully pivot its business model, given indications that it is tracking to fall well short of original customer targets.
The Quibi app has about 4.5 million installs to date since the April 6 launch, according to app-measurement firm Sensor Tower. During the launch period, Quibi offered a free 90-day trial to anyone who signed up.
Now those free trials are beginning to roll off. Among users who signed up from April 6-8, a maximum of 8% — or 72,000 — have opted to pay for Quibi, Sensor Tower estimated. Quibi’s regular price is $4.99 monthly with ads or $7.99 per month without ads; the ad-supported tier also is included in T-Mobile’s unlimited family plans.
If that 8% conversion rate holds, that would yield a paying base of 360,000 customers for Quibi from the current group of user signups — a major disappointment for the startup.
By contrast, Disney Plus converted about 11% of initial free-trial app users to paying customers, according to Sensor Tower. Disney Plus also had far more early signups than Quibi: According to Disney, the Disney Plus service had more than 10 million signups after the first day of launch (Nov. 12 in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands).
Quibi has not confirmed how many paying customers it has netted so far, but it claims the number of downloads of the app to date have topped 5.6 million (well above Sensor Tower’s estimate). A company rep said Sensor Tower’s estimate on the number of paid subscribers is “incorrect by an order of magnitude.”
“We are seeing excellent conversion to paid subscribers,” including from both the 90-day free trial signups from April and those who opted for the 14-day free trial in May and June, according to a Quibi spokesperson.
At Quibi’s current pace, it will land fewer than 2 million paying subscribers by April 2021, lower than the 7.4 million subscribers projected in its business plan, the Wall Street Journal reported last month. A Quibi rep said the numbers reported by the Journal were “inaccurate” but did not elaborate.
Katzenberg has ruled out shifting to a free, ad-supported model for Quibi (which NBCUniversal’s Peacock is banking on). The math doesn’t work, the ex-movie mogul has said — given that Quibi is paying upwards of $100,000 per minute of produced content.
Quibi has ordered high-budget originals from a range of A-list Hollywood talent, including Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Lopez, Sam Raimi, Idris Elba, Chrissy Teigen, Antoine Fuqua, Lena Waithe, Anna Kendrick, Rachel Brosnahan and the Kardashians. But so far, the service hasn’t generated any notably buzzy hits. The startup has raised $1.75 billion in funding and would need to raise additional capital next year if revenue comes in below expectations.
Katzenberg last month said he believes Quibi will take off once COVID-19 quarantines are lifted. He previously blamed the coronavirus crisis for stunting the liftoff of the mobile-focused, on-the-go “quick bites” venture.
“I’m still quite optimistic this is gonna work,” said Katzenberg, speaking at 2020 SeriesFest, a virtual edition of the sixth annual TV festival. He suggested that “when the country opens up… we are all going to be back on the go again. The difference is, is that we are going to be waiting on line for more things than ever before… We are going to be waiting like crazy, and I hope Quibi is there to keep you entertained.”