On April 6, Quibi ($PRIVATE:QUIBI) launched. Backed by huge names in the entertainment industry and nearly $2 billion funding, the mobile streaming service was, by most indicators, a flop. Just two weeks into its launch, response was lukewarm, and social traction was flat. By May, Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg was blaming disappointing response on the global pandemic.
"I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus," he told The New York Times. "Everything. But we own it."
The implication was that it's hard to launch a new streaming service in the middle of a global crisis when people are stuck at home. Katzenberg's statement was confounding on many levels, as TV engagement and streaming subscriptions have soared since March as people look for things to do while stuck at home.
Enter HBO Max, HBO's ($TWX) new $15-per-month streaming service that launches today (May 27) to massive hype, including everything from excitement about a new cut for Justice League (along with a trending Twitter hashtag), to the entire Friends back catalog, to one of the first times people will be able to stream classic Studio Ghibli movies.
And, unlike the Quibi launch, HBO Max is seeing social numbers that reflect what looks to be a streaming service launch that could compare to that of Disney Plus.
To date, Quibi has failed to crack 50,000 followers on Twitter, currently stuck at 47,900. When HBO Max first launched its social media campaign, it picked up a quick 67,000 followers out of the gate.
But in May, during the pre-launch hype and as consumer excitement for the new streaming service grew, HBO Max jumped to nearly 94,000 followers on Twitter.
Both services launched during the Coronavirus pandemic. Both had plenty of marketing and promotional capital. Both had big names behind their launches. But the responses, at least on social media, appear to be night and day.
The two services' early journeys on Facebook are similar to those of Twitter.
So far, Quibi has picked up nearly 24,000 followers. For a streaming service that purports to have been downloaded millions of times, that's not a great showing on America's largest social network. Meanwhile, HBO Max's Facebook-follower pickup has been astronomical in comparison. Between May 6 and May 25 — just over two weeks — HBO Max grew from 28,700 followers to 59,000.
To be fair to Quibi, the services are different. Quibi is meant to be consumed on mobile devices in short bursts (Quibi is short for "Quick Bites"), and with people stuck at home, it's plausible that they're looking for longer-form entertainment to while away the hours. Quibi is also much cheaper — $4.99 per month compared to HBO Max's $14.99.
Costs and formats aside, though, HBO Max is showing, very clearly, that it is possible to launch a streaming service during a pandemic.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.