The fat wad of cash Quibi has spent on high-end programming paid dividends in one area, at least: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s streamer picked up 10 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations in short form categories.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that Emmys nods (or even wins) can move the needle for Quibi, which has had a tough time signing up subscribers since the premium mobile entertainment app’s launch earlier this spring — at the front end of the COVID-19 crisis.
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And note that Quibi’s nominations all fall in the Emmys’ short-form brackets, which are less competitive — and less prestigious — than the traditional TV categories. The Emmy Awards’ short form categories are open to original programs with an average episode running time of 2-17 minutes. Quibi lands squarely within those parameters, with “quick bite” episodes around 10 minutes each.
In addition, Quibi can win no more than three Emmys, and it’s mainly competing against itself: The company locked up four of the five noms in each of the short-form actor and actress categories.
Quibi notched two nominations for best short form comedy or drama series, for “Reno 911,” a revival of Comedy Central’s cop spoof, and for dystopian thriller “Most Dangerous Game,” starring Liam Hemsworth.
Those are competing with short-form series that are sidecars to three TV franchises. The other nominees are AMC’s “Better Call Saul Employee Training: Legal Ethics With Kim Wexler”; CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Short Treks”; and NBC’s “The Good Place Presents: The Selection.”
Quibi’s “#FreeRayshawn,” a police drama from executive producer Antoine Fuqua, scored three acting nominations: Laurence Fishburne (as Lt. Steven Poincy) and Stephan James (as Rayshawn) nabbed actor nods for short form comedy or drama series, and Jasmine Cephas Jones (as Tyisha) picked up a nod for actress.
Anna Kendrick was nominated for actress in a short form comedy or drama series for Cody Heller’s “Dummy,” with her turn as a woman who befriends her boyfriend’s sex doll. Kaitlin Olson was nominated for dark comedy “Flipped” and Kerri Kenney-Silver earned a nomination for “Reno 911.”
Christoph Waltz got a nod in the short-form actor category for “Most Dangerous Game,” while Corey Hawkins was nominated for plane-crash drama “Survive.”
The two actors nominated for short form comedy or drama series who are not on Quibi shows are Mamoudou Athie for “Oh Jerome, No” (part of FXX’s “Cake” anthology series) and Rain Valdez for web series “Razor Tongue” from Now>Ever.
Quibi has banked $1.75 billion in funding from Hollywood studios and other investors, and the company’s execs have boasted of paying top dollar for its originals from A-listers — shelling out up to $100,000 per minute of programming.
But despite the Hollywood cachet of its pricey content, Quibi has fallen short of its business plan. The app converted just 8% of initial free-trial users to paying subs, according to a third-party researcher, while at its current pace Quibi stands to have fewer than 2 million customers (less than 30% of its goal) in the first year of operation, the Wall Street Journal reported. Quibi has disputed the figures as inaccurate but hasn’t disclosed its own subscriber figures. A company rep cited a recent analysis by research firm Antenna that found significantly higher conversion rates: 27% of Quibi users who signed up for 90-day free trials on the April 6 launch date through Apple’s App Store converted to paying subscribers (and 30% of those on subsequent 14-day free trials became paying customers). According to Antenna, Quibi’s numbers are much lower than the estimated free-trial conversion rates of other streaming services including Disney Plus (59%), Hulu and CBS All Access (58%), Apple TV Plus (57%) and HBO Max (56%).
One issue for Quibi: It launched as a mobile-only service, frustrating users who wanted to watch the cinematic shows on TVs; subsequently, the company added the ability to “cast” streams from Apple iOS and Android mobile apps. Moreover, Quibi faces competition from much larger subscription-streaming players like Netflix and Disney on the one hand, and on the other hand is vying for attention against free short-form video on apps like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.
Katzenberg, who has blamed the coronavirus pandemic for Quibi’s woes, has stuck to his guns on the streamer’s model. “I’m still quite optimistic this is gonna work,” he said last month at an industry conference.
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