Quibi reportedly lost 90 percent of early users after their free trials expired

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Streaming service Quibi only managed to convert a little under 10 percent of its early wave of users into paying subscribers, says mobile analytics firm Sensor Tower. According to the firm’s new report on Quibi’s early growth, the short-form video platform signed up about 910,000 users in its first few days back in April. Of those users, only about 72,000 stuck around after the three-month free trial, indicating the app had about an 8 percent conversion rate.

That’s not too bad. But compare it to the streaming video industry’s most successful debut of the last few years, Disney Plus, and the resulting picture is a grim one for Quibi, which has struggled both to find a hit among its mobile-centric shows and gain traction with its desired younger, TikTok-loving demographic, despite the surge in screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Sensor Tower, Disney managed to convert a comparable 11 percent of early free trials users, but that was of out of whopping 9.5 million people the firm estimates signed up for Disney Plus in its first three days of availability in the US and Canada. Since then, Disney has added tens of millions more subscribers and now enjoys more than 50 million paying users as of April thanks in part to its international expansion.

These numbers are not to be confused with the number of current paying subscribers Quibi has. While the company has yet to disclose that all-important figure, it has said that more than 5.6 million people have downloaded the app since April. We don’t know how many people downloaded the app after its first few days and decided to then convert to a paid user after the free trial ended.

Sensor Tower also estimates only 4.5 million have downloaded Quibi in total. The discrepancy between that figure and Quibi’s official one suggests Sensor Tower could also be far off in its estimates of how many users Quibi converted in its first three days. In a statement given to The Verge, a Quibi spokesperson said, “the number of paid subscribers is incorrect by an order of magnitude. To date, over 5.6 million people have downloaded the Quibi app. Our conversion from download to trial is above mobile app benchmarks, and we are seeing excellent conversion to paid subscribers — both among our 90-day free trial sign-ups from April, as well as our 14-day free trial sign-ups from May and June.”

That said, Sensor Tower is a reputable analytics company known for reporting accurate estimates and, in absence of concrete figures from Quibi itself, the picture its report paints of the streaming service’s business is not a rosy one. Sensor Tower’s data also doesn’t account for situations like an iPad user downloading Quibi, even though it’s not optimized for anything but smartphone screens, or users deleting the app and downloading it again or onto a separate device, all situations that may lead to Quibi’s larger total download figure.

Regardless, it’s not exactly controversial to say Quibi is not having a very great launch — co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg outright blamed the coronavirus for the app’s early failures. Much has been written about the company’s shortcomings, from the app’s poor marketing and bad timing to the inability to share screenshots or captures on social media to Quibi’s lack of smart TV or casting support at launch.

Most importantly, the platform doesn’t appear to have shows worth signing up for, like the mind-numbing amount of Netflix content that gets added each month or big pop culture events like Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian. Quibi has no built-in install base, like HBO had for its recent launch of HBO Max, and it’s an open question how long its $1.8 billion war chest will keep it afloat if users don’t show up in greater numbers.

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