From the day Quibi was launched, I had my eyes fixated on it. Firstly because it was Meg Whiteman who raised an eye popping USD 1 Billion, secondly it was trying to enter a space where the grand daddies like Apple, Google, Netflix, Amazon are heavily invested and willing to lose billions for their share of eyeballs. Literally this time. Back in India, I used to get these OTT platform startup pitches and my reply was simple: it is the airline business which will make you a millionaire from a billionaire. There is no way under the sun that any new OTT platform without any strategic bundle can be a profitable and sustainable business. Case in point, Netflix – Early mover advantage and the man Reed Hastings is simply outstanding. Let’s look at Amazon- Its prime membership and e-commerce play is big to keep churning content and throwing it for free. Imagine in future while you are watching an Amazon original and a pop up comes selling you any of its products. They are building their own advertising audience ready to be monetized in a few clicks Disney + Hotstar – For them the stakes are too high not to be in this space and even MX player for The Times of India is backwardly integrated with their own production jungle and their media muscle. Zee5 – Similarly if they don’t have their own OTT they will not be relevant any more, and if you are still not tired of all the above then there’s YouTube with billions of hours worth of free content which you can keep watching with your next generations ahead.
Coming back to Quibi, with its 10 minute – 5 USD service, on the face of it is a great idea. We want smackable content and just like 20/20 cricket matches, they are the need of the hour. But how many will pay for it? 10 minutes is a free spot served by YouTube. At first, the idea of mobile-first content, 10 minutes content and a great team led by Meg Whitman who has been associated with HP, Procter & Gamble, Walt Disney and that this will succeed was a no-brainer. But having attempted many startups myself and failed in many I can vouch that what looks on the surface as a brilliant idea, sometimes does a somersault once it goes on the floor. The project faced skepticism from the beginning, but there was a Hollywood heavyweight of Katzenberg’s reputation involved. As former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and a co-founder of DreamWorks Animation, it seemed that if anyone could disrupt the OTT shape in mobile viewership patterns, as Quibi was trying, it would be Katzenberg.
It’s easy to blame the present times for any failed business, but OTT and streaming apps have seen a huge uptick. But possibly, for Quibi dearth of content production since they were new in the business and the content factory was slammed with hard “Covid brakes.” In spite of shows like 50 states of fright and a dream team with 1.7 billion dollars in funding , streaming is a complicated space to disrupt. It’s almost like the e-commerce business after Amazon, Flipkart. That is where your search ends.