Quick bite

Quibi has already caved and put shows on YouTube

It's almost as if mobile-only was a bad strategy...

Bloomberg/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Quibi wants to juice more sign-ups for its mobile-only video service before the 90-day trial offer expires tomorrow, so it posted the first episodes from three shows onto YouTube.

The company last week announced that its app has been downloaded more than 2.7 million times since launching on April 6th. Quibi, short for "quick bites," offers original shows and movies where each episode is a maximum of 10 minutes in length. The company has raised nearly $2 billion and put it to work commissioning shows like "Chrissy's Court," a version of Judge Judgy where the judge is, of course, Chrissy Teigen.

The app limitation is a sham — The restriction to viewing Quibi from a smartphone has always been a dubious one. There's no real reason to limit the experience to mobile. People want to be able to enjoy shows from home, and shocker, Quibi conceded to demands by announcing earlier this month that it will introduce an ability to cast to TVs. But if Quibi is available everywhere then it's just another video subscription — and one that gives you less content than the competition, for a higher price. Disney+ costs $6.99 a month for an ad-free viewing experience anywhere, whereas Quibi costs $7.99 for the same thing.

Founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman have said that a mobile-first platform enables new experiences like the ability to watch videos in both landscape and portrait mode without losing any content (Quibi shows don't letterbox in portrait). If the service hadn't been designed for mobile, the thinking goes, filmmakers wouldn't have made their content in a way that supports the format and you'd be forced to watch in traditional landscape mode. Okay, sure.

But Quibi is underwhelming — Quibi imagines that people will like to watch shows during the brief moments in their day when they have free time, such as while they're on the subway. To an extent, it's understandable. People watch clips of shows on YouTube all the time. Quibi hopes you'll be willing to pay for these clips if they're for really high-quality, exclusive shows. Unfortunately, its first shows aren't too special, as the Wall Street Journal points out.

"The best way to describe Quibi is that it is like a premium YouTube with celebrities. Yet for such an innovative wrapper, all of the shows feel vaguely familiar and not particularly fresh," wrote Nicole Nguyen in her review.

Posting episodes to YouTube sort of says it all: the app really is a fancy wrapper, a veneer to draw you in before Quibi has a good content library. The content isn't made any better by the app. It takes time to build up a content library, as others like Netflix know, but don't pretend the mobile experience is something special.