Video streaming service Quibi, which will debut next month, has raised another $750 million in funding, according to the Wall Street Journal. That brings the total investment in an app hardly anyone’s seen to $1.75 billion.
The company didn’t name the recent investors. And $400 million of that $750 million was raised at the end of 2019, the Journal reports. It’s a sign that investors are feeling confident about Quibi’s chances of succeeding in a quickly-growing space — and that confidence may have to do with founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. As Fox Corporation CEO Lachlan Murdoch told The Hollywood Reporter in October 2019, “If anyone can make it work, it’s Jeffrey.”
(Disclosure: Vox Media, which owns The Verge, has a deal with Quibi to produce a Polygon Daily Essential, and there have been early talks about a Verge show.)
If Disney wants to sell you Star Wars, Quibi wants to sell subscribers the idea of high quality, premium series and films split into chunks no longer than 10 minutes in length. Content that can be consumed waiting in line for coffee, or on a subway. But though founder Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman have touted a number of shows, no one has seen the app yet. People who have seen shows have seen them pre-loaded on a device, meaning they haven’t had a chance to play with the app. The company is gambling on its signature Turnstyle tech, which changes the point-of-view when a phone switches from landscape to portrait mode.
Barry Diller, who was once Katzenberg’s boss at Paramount, co-founded the Fox Broadcasting Company, and is currently chairman of IAC, told NBC News today that Quibi is “a giant and gutsy speculation.” Diller added that “most people when they hear it aren’t overwhelmed by the idea, which makes it all the gutsier.” Still, Diller noted that Katzenberg is going all in on the idea, and that’s where much of the hype comes from: Katzenberg helped turn Disney animation around in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s under then CEO Michael Eisner. His reputation precedes him.
“This is hope, his great hope: that somewhere in [Quibi’s library] there is going to be a giant hit,” Diller said. “That in there is going to be something that makes people say, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got to see it.’”
Quibi won’t compete with the Netflixes and Disney Plus’ of the world, though. Katzenberg sees it as competing with apps that take up time on your phone for free — Instagram, YouTube and, increasingly, TikTok. That’s where Katzenberg is trying to play, and it’s where he’s trying to convince investors that a $4.99 streaming service with ads ($7.99 without ads) can not only survive, but thrive when it launches on April 6th.
“We’re competing against free,” Katzenberg told The Verge in January. “We have to offer something that is meaningfully, measurably, quantifiably, creatively different.”