Quibi ($PRIVATE:QUIBI) is launching on Monday. What's a Quibi? It's a heavily funded short-format mobile streaming service run by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman that's already pulled in nearly $2 billion in funding. And despite Super Bowl commercials, a slate of superstars including Kendall Jenner, Tyra Banks, Steph Curry, Zac Efron, and 50 Cent, hype for the new service is shockingly muted.
Given the global Coronavirus pandemic, one may think this is the perfect time to launch a new distraction. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have become beloved time-wasters as nearly 90% of The United States is under stay-at-home orders. Usage for Netflix is so high that it's had to throttle bandwidth in some markets while others — like HBO — are offering up free previews both as a show of goodwill and as a way to hook new customers.
But, for Quibi, things look awfully quiet before launch according to the data we're seeing.
Just before we were all sheltered in place, Quibi closed a $750 million round on March 4, 2020. According to the Los Angeles Times, the company already employs 265 people, "most of whom are under 40". On LinkedIn, 333 people claim to work for the company in some capacity, the discrepancy likely related to contract workers, production teams, and the like.
That's an appreciable growth for a pre-launch startup for sure, but it doesn't appear that the company is racing to grow its team rapidly right now. That's because job listings at the company have fallen precipitously.
In February — right around the Super Bowl — the company listed 22 openings. As of this week, it's only hiring for 10 positions.
Those 10 positions have remained the same for some time, too, suggesting that the company is in a bit of a hiring freeze at the very least until it gets through its launch and gains an understanding of the market's appetite for the content in which it's already invested.
Early indications of the market's appetite for whatever it is that Quibi will be launching on Monday point to a lukewarm response. Twitter follower pickup has been slow, especially for a service with the funds Quibi has, and even more so for a service that hopes to swim in the same waters as Disney Plus, Netflix, and TikTok.
After the Super Bowl — when Quibi ran several expensive commercials — the company's Twitter follower count virtually doubled, from 11,500 to nearly 20,000. But since then, it's only picked up a handful more followers. As of April 2, only 29,400 Twitter accounts follow Quibi (it now has 30,400 followers, so things appear to be picking up slightly).
For comparison's sake, though, TikTok has 953,300 followers, Disney Plus has 1.2 million, and Netflix has 7.4 million. YouTube, which probably offers the most similar content to that which Quibi hopes to hawk, has a massive 72.4 million Twitter following count.
30,000 followers, in other words, isn't what one would expect one business day before launch for a service with the fiscal and star power behind Quibi. One would also expect that given Zac Efron's 15.8 million followers, Kendall Jenner's 28.9 million Twitter fans, or Steph Curry's 14.2 followers, that there would be some push for a follower pickup for Quibi.
One would also expect that given Zac Efron's 15.8 million followers, Kendall Jenner's 28.9 million Twitter fans, or Steph Curry's 14.2 followers, that there would be some push for a follower pickup for Quibi.
But, strangely, not one of them has mentioned Quibi on Twitter lately. Conversely, Meg Whitman's Twitter account (211,000 followers) is all about Quibi.
Perhaps we're overplaying the importance of Twitter here, but given all of that firepower, this is a curious pre-launch social marketing swing-and-miss.
Things aren't any better for Quibi on Facebook, where the service's fan page has just 14,000 followers. For comparison: Netflix has 63 million and Disney Plus already has 1.5 million.
So far, Quibi's Facebook page has been shared less than 2,000 times on Facebook, giving little to no indication that people are chattering about the upcoming launch.
Once the service is launched on Monday, we'll likely see a bit of a push, and, if the content is good enough to quell the boredom of millions of stuck-at-home viewers, Quibi could become a thing. At the very least, people will be sitting around to give it a try, and if Quibi pulls a Baby Yoda out of its deep hat, it could become the next big thing.
But quarantine or not, this will be a tough market for Quibi to swim in. Just last month, Netflix added 50 new shows, and now YouTube wants to get in on the short-form video market. Meanwhile, TikTok videos are making front-page news.
Quibi launches Monday, April 6, and is offering up a 90-day free trial for those who want to give it a spin.
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.