After a whirlwind six months, Quibi has confirmed the short-form streaming service is closing down. The shutting down of a service aimed at mobile device users is another example of the importance of device support.
In an era when video can be watched on many different devices and platforms, not all services equally cater to consumers in the same way. Both HBO Max and Peacock are prime examples of this, considering both are still missing from Amazon’s Fire TV platform. Likewise, while HBO Max remains missing on Roku devices as well, Peacock has since rectified its Roku problem after the two struct a deal.
However, Quibi was another story altogether. Unlike HBO Max and Peacock, its device support was not dictated by the deals it did, or didn’t do. Instead, Quibi actively embraced the ‘less is more’ philosophy by intentionally shutting out all devices, other than those running on Android mobile and iOS. This wasn’t just a matter of the service excluding living room players and TVs, as Quibi was built from the ground up to work solely on mobile devices.
Soon after launch, Quibi seemed to understand the importance of catering to more devices and very quickly looked to patch the issue by adding AirPlay and Chromecast support. With these now in play, subscribers gained the option to stream Quibi videos from their mobile device to their TVs and other AirPlay or Chromecast-enabled devices. Even more recently, Quibi expanded device support to include living room devices powered by Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Apple TV.
Quibi’s device problem got worse
While device support was already an issue, the problem was further compounded by COVID-19. As so many were forced to remain home more often, the appeal of a streaming service that can only be accessed on mobile likely deteriorated even more. In an open letter explaining why it is shutting down, Quibi explained that both the idea and the timing contributed to the current situation.
“And yet, Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing.”Quibi
While graceful enough in acknowledging that the idea played its role, the statement by Quibi assumes the two reasons are different when they are not. To explain, while lockdown orders undoubtedly made a mobile-only streaming service less viable, the pandemic has also resulted in consumers spending more time online than even before. Internet service providers have routinely commented on this, as have video-conferencing services like Zoom, which have all seen massive upticks in users and hours.
Streaming services are no different with many of those at home tuning in to watch movies and shows more often, and for longer periods of time. For example, although Netflix is now seeing a slowdown in subscriber growth, this followed a period of record-breaking new subscribers and hours streamed. Quibi might have been no different, if device support had been there to begin with.
More devices, not less
With Quibi offering a 14-day free trial and plans starting from just $4.99 per month, its catalog of big budget content, featuring star-studded casts, is likely to have appealed to more streamers, if they had been able to actually access the service on the devices that matter. In this sense, the pandemic worked against Quibi while benefitting other streaming services that did cater to subscribers at the device level.
Therein is the ultimate and unfortunate irony in the Quibi story. Mobile-first is different to mobile-only and by exclusively focusing on one device type, it alienated so many potential subscribers during a period when an alternate version of Quibi — with living room device support — might have excelled. The timing of Quibi’s launch during a pandemic was wrong for a mobile-only service, but COVID-19 only amplified the issue, it didn’t cause it.
The takeaway from all of this is a clear reminder of the importance of device support. Consumers are always looking for more ways to access movies and shows, not less. Any streaming service that intentionally, or through a lack of willingness to strike a deal, limits device support, runs the risk of turning consumers off in a similar way.