Quibi Gets Legal Win Amid Ongoing Consumer Indifference

Quibi, the $1.7 billion funded subscription streaming video service from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and eBay founder Meg Whitman, got a legal break from ongoing concerns about its underwhelming business model.

A Los Angeles District Court judge July 13 ruled against tech rival Eko’s claim that Quibi illegally uses its “turnstile” technology enabling users to alter how they watch video on portable devices by filling the screen whether the device is held vertically or horizontally.

“In short, Eko fails to make a clear showing of irreparable harm suffered by way of reputation and goodwill,” Judge Christina Snyder wrote denying Eko a preliminary injunction.

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Quibi heralded the decision, contending Eko never had a case, and alleging the litigation was an attempt at a payday.

“We will continue to aggressively defend ourselves,” said the streamer.

A lawyer representing Eko said the decision would be appealed.

“We look forward to presenting the merits of the case at trial, including our request for substantial damages,” Neel Chatterjee said in a statement.

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Regardless, Quibi, which offers subscribers access to original content no longer than 10 minutes in length for $4.99 (with ads) and $7.99 (without ads), has struggled to retain subscribers. The service claims its app has been downloaded more than 5.6 million times since the April launch. How many are active subscribers has not been disclosed.

Katzenberg Blames COVID-19 for Quibi’s Slow Start

With 3.5 million app downloads (and 1.3 million active users) since launching on April 6, streaming video platform Quibi is not Disney+, Netflix, or even Acorn TV. And with billions of dollars in backing, the ambitious start-up from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman finds Katzenberg on the defensive.

In an interview with The New York Times, Katzenberg laments how the coronavirus pandemic and resulting nationwide home quarantines undermined the Quibi app’s mobile-centric target user.

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“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything. But we own it,” Jeffrey Katzenberg told The Times.

Since its launch, Quibi (which stands for “quick bites”) offers original video content from big-name talent and directors no longer than 10 minutes in length. After debuting in the top three app downloads, the platform now ranks 125th, according to Sensor Tower.

“Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch? The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted,” Katzenberg said.

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Indeed, while attributing business failure to a pandemic seems easy, some observers contend Quibi’s mobile-only platform was doomed regardless of COVID-19.

“Quibi’s failure is due to its restrictive nature,” Danyaal Rashid, analyst with Global Thematic Research, said in a note. “The platform only supports mobile viewing and short-form video; the content library is weak compared to larger streamers; and at $7.99 (€9.05) a month [without ads], it is expensive – Disney+ is just $6.99 a month.”

Quibi has also been sued by Israeli tech company Eko, which claims the app’s technology enabling users to watch video either in vertical or horizontal position on their cell phone, is their invention.

“This is a case to stop the theft of Eko’s technology by Quibi, alleging a civil action for patent infringement under the patent laws of the United States, and misappropriation of trade secrets,” Eko alleged in a complaint filed March 10 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Quibi has filed a countersuit.

Meanwhile, Whitman remains more positive. In a May 11 interview with CNN Business, the former GOP California gubinatorial candidate said Quibi is a new brand with original content attempting to attract millions of eyeballs.

“We came to market with no library, no legacy product and we’re starting from scratch,” Whitman said. “I know how hard it is to gain people’s attention, particularly in a pandemic. But I feel really good about where we are, even though we’re five weeks old.”

Maybe, but Verizon felt equally confident about its mobile-centric entertainment app, go90, which launched in 2015 with original content from Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning short, Dear Basketball. It shuttered less than three years later with losses reaching $1 billion and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam retiring.

Walmart Working with Former Studio Chief Nancy Tellem in New Joint Venture

Walmart desperately wants to bridge the entertainment and e-commerce divide with Amazon.

The world’s largest retailer Oct. 11 announced a strategic entertainment joint venture with Eko, a developer of interactive video technology. The pact includes plans to develop original, interactive content that Walmart claims will help it connect with customers in “new and more meaningful ways,” with the goal of driving deeper and more frequent engagement.

The content, which could range from cooking shows to interactive toy catalogues, will go beyond the basic personalization available today, allowing viewers to participate in and shape stories as they are being told, according to Walmart.

The joint venture – dubbed W*E Interactive Ventures – expands Walmart’s entertainment ecosystem. The retailer already has a longstanding physical and digital video presence, through stores, websites, the digital platform Vudu.com and the recently launched eBook platform, Walmart eBooks, with Rakuten Kobo.

“Our partnership with Eko will help us accelerate efforts to deepen relationships with customers and connect with new audiences in innovative ways and is one part of an overall entertainment ecosystem we’re building,” Scott McCall, SVP of entertainment, toys and seasonal, Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

Since 2010, Eko has pioneered the future of entertainment, alongside partners like Sony Pictures Entertainment and MGM Studios. Eko has received prior funding from Sequoia Capital, Intel Capital, Warner Music Group, Samsung, Walmart, and others, and has more than 15 patents for its technology. In connection with the joint venture, Walmart has agreed to participate in Eko’s next funding round.

“The future of video entertainment is interactive, and this joint venture is a huge step towards bringing this future to life,” said Yoni Bloch, CEO of Eko. “In 2018, all forms of media are personalized except for live action video.

The partnership will be led by Bloch, with input from several industry experts. Tribeca Productions co-founder Jane Rosenthal will serve as strategic advisor. Rosenthal, producer of films such as Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, About a Boy (film and series), Wag the Dog and the upcoming Scorsese film The Irishman, helps create a bridge for both established and emerging artists looking for an outlet for their work.

Nancy Tellem, chief media officer and executive chairwoman of Eko, will serve on the board of the joint venture. Prior to joining Eko, Tellem spent more than 25 years in television including time as president of CBS Network Television Group.

Tellem most-recently spearheaded Microsoft’s short-lived attempt at creating original TV shows and movies at shuttered Xbox Entertainment Studios.

“During my career in broadcast television, I’ve seen how traditional media has been transformed by technology and have long believed that technology would be the key to creating more engaging entertainment experiences,” said Tellem. “Audiences are hungry for immersive entertainment, and storytellers are embracing this new technology in creating a new type of story narrative that deeply engages the viewer. Now is the time for Eko and interactive content to take center stage.”