EXCLUSIVE: Quibi’s struggles since launching in April did not stem from a lack of promotion. As it looks for a rebound after a pause for reassessment, new third-party research provided to Deadline shows the startup is starting to blow the trumpets again, only in a different key.
Looking to break through in a crowded streaming field, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s startup bought multiple TV ad slots on the Super Bowl and the Oscars following a splashy presentation in Las Vegas at CES. The return on that investment hasn’t fully materialized. In its first 90 days, during a free trial period, the streaming app was downloaded 5.6 million times, the company said last month. Only a small percentage of those downloads converted to subscribers paying $5 a month or $8 for an ad-free version.
While it disputes outside gauges of subscriber levels, calling one estimate of an 8% conversion rate of free trials to paid subscriptions “incorrect by an order of magnitude,” the company concedes it has work to do. Katzenberg largely blames COVID-19 for keeping subscriber levels well below initial targets. The pandemic has certainly altered the ideal use case for the service, whose name is short for “quick bites,” and its mission to serve top-quality, short-form video to millennials on the go.
Having raised $1.75 billion, the company led by Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman is committed to staying in the game, however. New data from digital video tracker Tubular Labs and TV ad firm iSpot (see charts below) show the company has dug back into its capital reserves, buying more TV ads and circulating more online clips.
The focus of this new marketing appears to be more on individual shows or episodes, rather than overall consumer awareness of Quibi as a platform. On the executive front, one of the positions that turned over in the spring was marketing. Megan Imbres, a Netflix veteran, left Quibi two weeks after it launched. On an interim basis, Ann Daly — who worked closely with Katzenberg at DreamWorks Animation, stepped in to help with marketing.
Through April and May 2020, Quibi was uploading less than a video per day to YouTube, with a total of 51 videos, an average of 0.84 per day. But in June, July and August to-date, Quibi posted 92 videos (an average of 1.39 per day), Tubular Labs found. Those videos racked up 186 million views on YouTube, or 35% of the year’s total so far.
Online videos have favored trailers and episode previews. Every one of Quibi’s top 20 videos since June 1 on YouTube was either a trailer for a specific show or a preview of a specific episode. Three videos have topped 10 million views on YouTube since June 1: the second trailer for Most Dangerous Game (42.6 million views); a promo for Dummy (35.3 million views); and a trailer for The Fugitive (18.2 million).
Quibi has also returned to television, iSpot found, spending an estimated $10 million on 469 million impressions between July 1 and August 5. Spend and impressions have increased over time, suggesting a potential start to a second TV push after the initial flurry in early 2020.
After spending $22.2 million on TV ads from March 15 through April 30, Quibi turned off the spigot, laying out only $543,000 in June. With Peacock, HBO Max and Disney+ all buying TV, along with incumbents like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, Quibi ranked sixth among streaming services by media value of TV ads in the first half of the year, per iSpot.
Since the start of July, TV ads have focused on show promos and trailers for titles like Die Hart, The Fugitive and Most Dangerous Game. Buys have been spread out across various shows and networks, but the largest chunk comes from sports, which have come back to life after months of complete shutdown. About 40% of Quibi’s TV ad dollars have gone toward sports-related programming since July 1. The NBA is the top destination, accounting for almost 16% of spend, and 12.6% of Quibi’s impressions.
Here are charts with more details: