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Quibi’s Whitman: 1.7M First-week Downloads ‘Exceeded Our Expectations’

(Image credit: Future)

Quibi CEO Meg Whitman said the Quibi app was dowloaded 1.7 million times in its first week, representing “one of the most successful launches of a completely new brand and a completely new app.”

Declaring Quibi’s tally in an appearance on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street Monday morning, Whitman’s number was significantly greater than one also released this morning by tracking firm Apptopia, which counted 1.15 million Quibi app downloads. 

“It turns out people have in-between moments at home, in-between Zoom calls, in-between wrangling the kids, in between taking care of the house and things like that. We don’t actually think [the pandemic] hurt us. We’re delighted by the launch,” Whitman said. 

Whitman conceded that when COVID-19 hit, the company had to make “a whole host of changes” to its launch strategy. Among the most notable, she said, was to establish a 90-day free trial period. After the 90 days, users will be charged $4.99 for a version with ads and $7.99-a month for an ad-free version. 

“There will certainly be belt-tightening. It’s impossible to predict. But I think the fact that this is mobile-only, very personalized and relatively inexpensive I think will stand us in good stead,” Whitman noted. 

She also noted that Quibi is largely immune to the current impact to the ad market, given that it’s sold out its first-year inventory. “We’re set until April of next year,” Whitman said. 

At CES, Whitman valued that first-year haul at $153 million. Quibi has raised $1.75 billion in private funding. 

She added that the median Quibi user is in their mid-thirties, and that 80% of users who initiate a 10-minute-or-less Quibi series episode finish the installment. 

Whitman’s public statement’s probably couldn’t come soon enough, given that the narrative on Quibi’s launch week has been largely spun—perhaps unfairly—negative. 

As The Verge noted, analysts had been expecting first-week downloads in the range of 1 million to 1.5 million. 

Also read: Tough First Day? Quibi Generates Only 300K App Downloads, Gets Battered by Critics

Research company Sensor Tower reported 300,000 app downloads on the first day for Quibi, April 6, inspiring a number of media outlets to compare the service—which is intended for use only on mobile phones—to the highly successful Disney Plus and its 4 million first-day app downloads. .

Not only is Disney Plus a lean-back OTT experience designed for living room consumption, it’s built on the backbone of very established, very popular entertainment brands like Star Wars and Marvel. 

In his interview with Next TV in early March, Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, a former Disney executive, took pains to differentiate Quibi from Disney Plus, noting that the former is a new brand targeted to adult consumers featuring mostly new intellectual property. 

Also read: Katzenberg on Quibi: 'If You Make It and It's Good, They Will Come'

Quibi, which doesn’t have an OTT app, or support for AirPlay or Chromecast, caught flack from users who wanted to port Quibi video on to their living-room TVs.

“We had always planned to be able to cast to your TV, so we’re going to see if we can accelerate that in the engineering roadmap,” Whitman said on CNBC. “We’ll eventually get there, but it was never a part of the launch. If we had known about COVID, maybe it would have been.”

Meanwhile, critics were hard on the service, as well, as they reviewed content meant for viewing in short bursts in public places in quarantined, very traditional circumstances. 

That outlook could change. Quibi—which launched with 50 original shows and just announced the debut of seven new shows this morning—has banked a big supply of original content that will keep rolling out over the course of the late-spring and summer. Perhaps there’s a Mandalorian-style breakout hit in there somewhere?

“We feel great we have enough content to last us now through November, and this is important because all of Hollywood is shut down like the rest of the country, and we’ll see how our users consume,” Whitman said.