90-day free trial and an IP lawsuit; it’s all go at Quibi

Short-form video subscription service Quibi has had somewhat of a mixed week, announcing a 90-day free trial to pump subscriptions while also facing an IP lawsuit in California.

The cash rich content creator is on the verge of launching, though opinion is certainly divided on the concept. Some view this as an innovative way to engage digital natives who have incredibly short attention spans with original and unique content. It certainly is a novel idea, but it is very, very different from the status quo. And sometimes when you move the needle too aggressively away from the centre, the mass market is reluctant to shift from the comforts of the tried and tested.

This is the challenge which Quibi faces. It could either take the world by storm, introduce a new way of entertaining and engaging the consumer, or it could be a catastrophic failure. To give the concept as much opportunity to succeed, the Quibi business is offering 90-day free trials for users.

Launching on April 6, Quibi promises unique content in short-form, daily videos. More than 50 original titles will be available to consumers on launch, some of which come with conditions attached. For example, Steven Spielberg is creating a horror series which can only be watched at night. Bankrolled by $1.75 billion in investments, there certainly is the cheddar to fund some interesting ideas.

Quibi is certainly one of the rare examples of innovation today, though how much space is there in the consumers wallet for innovation?

The streaming world is currently dominated by Netflix, though it looks although Disney+ will at least leapfrog the chasing pack to offer some sort of challenge. Outside of these two, you have Amazon Prime, YouTube Premium and Apple TV+ operating worldwide, as well as regional providers such as HBO and Hulu in the US, BritBox in the UK, HBO Go in Asia and Hotstar in India. On top of these services, you have the traditional broadcasters such as Sky, Mediaset, Vivendi and Comcast.

This is a very congested and fragmented market, but somehow Quibi has to find some traction. The offer of free content for three months might be a useful means, it did seemingly work for Spotify, though whether this is a concept too far removed from the norm remains to be seen.

Elsewhere in the Quibi business, the legal team is getting an early workout.

Quibi has filed a counter-lawsuit in the US District Court for Central California to defend itself against a lawsuit from interactive video company Eko which suggests Quibi has violated one of its patents. The dispute concerns Quibi’s Turnstyle feature that understands the orientation of a viewer’s phone and adjusts the content accordingly.

Quibi has said that following its keynote address at CES this year, Eko ‘embarked on a campaign of threats and harassment to coerce money or a licensing deal’.

The lawsuit focuses on a meeting between Eko executives and Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg. Katzenberg passed on investing in Eko, though two Snap employees who were demoed the Eko technology has since joined Quibi. Eko believes these two employees stole trade secrets. Quibi has argued the delivery of content to the app differs, therefore there is no patent infringement.

Even before this service has been launched, Quibi is certainly looking like a very interesting company.

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