Quibbling over Quibi

October 1, 2020

Yep, quick bite. Just what investors needed. An money sucking mosquito draining financial blood from clueless investors.

Why Quibi Failed” is one of those Silicon Valley management analyses I enjoy. The write up received wider distribution by its inclusion in the MSN news channel. Yep, a Microsoft real news operation, not to be confused with Bing news, the messages displayed in Windows 10, or the razzle dazzle about Surface Duo. Hey, I know. Combine the Duo with the quick bite thing. That’s an idea: A $1400 gizmo that plays Quibi content. Winner!

The “Why Quibi Failed” explains that has failed. The write up paints a dire picture:

Since its US debut in April, Quibi seemed destined for such an ending. It badly missed subscriber and viewership targets and in June was on pace to sign up only 2 million paying subscribers by the end of the year (its goal was over 7 million). It was forced to manage reports of mass layoffs and rumors that its founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and its CEO, Meg Whitman, were not seeing eye to eye. And now it’s fighting a lawsuit filed by a video company alleging Quibi infringed on its patented technology (Quibi denies this).

In point of fact, the outfit is chugging along and might pull off a sale to another company looking for magic; that is, content. Sounds like Quibi needs to upgrade its public relations unit.

Why has Quibi been bitten where the sun does not shine? The write up turns to one of the wizards leading the charge to the future of entertainment, Jeffrey Katzenberg:

Katzenberg blamed everything on the coronavirus.

The article explains:

Quibi could have invested more in content from celebrities its younger audience might actually appreciate, like YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok stars. Instead, it threw lots of money at the kind of names that older executives might imagine young people enjoy—Jennifer Lopez, Idris Elba, Tyra Banks, Usher, and every teenager’s favorite actor, 53-year-old Kiefer Sutherland.

The idea is that old school Hollywood thinking is not hip to the charms of Bad Bunny or the ever delightful video style of Gamers Nexus.

Other reasons for the alleged failure of Quibi include:

  • Content (wait, not a strength)
  • Lack of “shareability”
  • The format of quick bites; that is, 10 minute chunks of juicy digital goodness.

But wait. There’s no fix, no options, no recommendations.

That’s a bit of a problem with Silicon Valley business thinking. Imagine. Figuring out next steps.

Several observations:

  1. A closer look at the management track record of the Quibi leadership would be helpful. Hints about “tension” are okay, but let’s dig into the facts like disastrous deals and massive flops suggest that headwinds have been blowing for years
  2. Quibi’s “chunk at a time” is out of step with the type of real-time, constant-click data available to an outfit like TikTok, Amazon Twitch, and (gasp!) Facebook Instagram Reels. Mismatch? For sure.
  3. Some information about the production deals for the magical content. With it content is often produced, edited, and distributed from a laptop in an RV camp or from an organic vegan coffee shop; for example, the antics of Kara and Nate and their interesting videos. Quibi did it the Hollywood 1980s way. That’s a money saving idea.
  4. A bit of digging into the “management style” of Mr. Katzenberg and Ms. Whitman could be complemented with actual interviews of people who knew how these two brilliant leaders interacted with one another.

There is a book waiting to be written about Quibi. If there were functional universities teaching business the old fashioned way, there is at least one case study. The legal antics of Quibi investors might enliven a law review if these print centric publications are still funded.

In short, the analysis like Quibi seems oddly appropriate even with Rona ready to accept the blame. Quick bite? Nope, big chomp in tender places. One may want to consider that Quibi is “actually quite good.” But for whom?

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2020


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