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Quibi places free episodes on YouTube as streamer looks to grow subscribers

Quibi, a subscription streaming service, is putting free episodes on YouTube, including the first episode of thriller “The Stranger” starring Maika Monroe.
(Quibi)

After months of positioning itself as a premium subscription platform, Hollywood streaming service Quibi is now making some of its shows available for free on YouTube.

The company confirmed Thursday that the first episodes of programs including thrillers “The Stranger” and “Most Dangerous Game,” and the comedy “Dummy,” will be on YouTube.

The move comes as the Hollywood start-up, which specializes in “bite-sized” shows targeting mobile phone users, is trying to grow its audience while people are sheltering in place at home.

The Times confirmed on Wednesday that at least one episode of “The Stranger” would be made available on YouTube. CNET reported Thursday that the first episodes of “Most Dangerous Game” and “Dummy” would also be posted.

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Quibi is turning to YouTube to attract subscribers even though its executives have previously emphasized that their content is of more premium quality than that offered by user-generated video sites such as YouTube and TikTok.

Quibi had a strong debut when it launched earlier this month. Unlike many other streaming services, it is charging a subscription for shows with episodes of 10 minutes or less. That has brought some skepticism among analysts because there are other platforms, like YouTube and TikTok, that rely on short-form video but are free and supported with ads. Quibi charges $4.99 a month for a subscription with ads and $7.99 a month without ads.

The company has had to tweak its strategy as COVID-19 has significantly changed the way people consume entertainment. Quibi originally marketed itself as entertainment for people on the go. The idea was that consumers would watch shows when they are commuting on the subway or waiting for their table at a restaurant.

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But the coronavirus crisis changed that as many people are staying at home and streamers like Netflix are seeing their subscriber base skyrocket.

Quibi Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg has said that he believes consumers will still find Quibi helpful for their in-between moments, such as between Zoom calls.

The company had also designed its shows to be consumed on mobile phones. Already, the company said it is working on a way to stream Quibi’s service onto TVs.

Ross Benes, an analyst with research firm EMarketer, noted that Quibi already is promoting its service on YouTube with ads, so making first episodes available could be an extension of that.

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“It’s interesting how they clearly see YouTube as a way to gain users, even though many people view YouTube as a close competitor,” Benes said.

Quibi, led by Katzenberg and tech veteran Meg Whitman, has raised $1.75 billion in financing.

Last year, Quibi told The Times that it is different than YouTube.

“What we say internally is we’d like to be the quality of HBO and offer customers the convenience of Spotify,” Whitman said. “We’re not Facebook Watch. We’re not Snapchat. We’re not Instagram TV. We’re not YouTube. We’re Quibi, and it’s not denigrating those platforms at all ... but we’re staking out a premium position relative to those.”


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