Extended free trial for mobile-first streaming service Quibi nears end

The logo of streaming service Quibi. (Logo: Quibi/Graphic: The Desk)

Subscribers who immediately signed up for an extended three-month free trial of short-form streaming service Quibi will be asked to pay anywhere from $5 to $8 a month starting next week.

The service, which launched on April 6, offered new subscribers the opportunity to test drive its streaming app for 90 days. The extended free trial was offered through April 30.

That free trial comes to an end next week for users who took Quibi up on their offer right at launch, with subscriptions converting to paid accounts automatically.

Renewal dates will differ based on when users subscribe — Quibi offered 90-day free trials to anyone who created an account by April 30, meaning subscriptions will convert sometime between July 5 and July 30 (taking into account that May has 31 days).

Quibi offers two tiers of service: An ad-supported version with access to everything in Quibi’s library for $5 a month, and an ad-free version for $8 a month.

Content is accessible only on supported phones and tablets, though Quibi has expressed a willingness to provide avenues for content to be streamed on smart TVs. In June, the service started allowing users to “cast” shows using Chromecast or Apple TV devices, and executives say support for other devices could come over the next few months.

Quibi has managed to secure a number of recognized brands as content partners, including NBC News and CBS News, and has signed on Jennifer Lopez, Chance the Rapper, Ron Funches, Reese Witherspoon and other celebrities for its original programming.

While the service has a small, devoted audience, it hasn’t garnered much mainstream appeal, much to the disappointment of investors who ponied up nearly $2 billion to fund the app prior to its launch.

Despite offering a lengthy free trial, the Wall Street Journal reported in May that Quibi had attracted just 1.5 million users within its first month. The Journal said Quibi had blown through $1 billion less than four weeks after launching and would need to secure another $200 million by next year to remain solvent.

To make matters worse, some advertisers — including Yum Brands, Walmart and PepsiCo — were asking to renegotiate commercial contracts with Quibi, in part due to lackluster viewing figures as well as the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus health pandemic.

Executives at Quibi say the coronavirus crisis is largely to blame for Quibi’s lackluster launch. But television critics argue that Quibi’s lack of compelling content coupled with its decision early on to force users to watch content on mobile devices was a recipe from disaster from the start.

As Quibi’s free trial period comes to a close for many users, it will be interesting to see how many continue to pay for the service and how many decide to bail.