Quibi is beginning to offer a completely free tier to subscribers in Australia and New Zealand as the struggling streaming company tries to build its subscriber base.
An email sent to customers in Australia, shared with The Verge, notes that for subscribers in both Australia and New Zealand, Quibi is “now offering an ad-supported free plan so you can choose the right option for you.” The company is also rolling out a cheaper subscription tier — going from $12.99 to $6.99 AUD (roughly $9 to $5 in USD). The company calls it a “significantly reduced” price and is rolling existing customers into the plan. It’s unclear if Quibi has plans to launch a free, ad-supported tier in other countries, but The Verge has reached out for more information.
“No need to take action, just enjoy the extra six bucks,” the email reads.
It’s a big move for Quibi — one that comes less than six months after the service launched. Quibi’s faced a difficult road. The company is struggling to grow its subscriber base, and none of its series have managed to make a splash in the mainstream market. The streamer did secure 10 primetime Emmy nominations but exclusively in short-form categories typically dominated by YouTube originals. To say that Quibi didn’t launch with its own version of The Mandalorian or even Love Life would be the biggest understatement.
That’s part of the issue Quibi is facing. Quibi charges $4.99 a month in the United States for an ad-supported plan and $7.99 a month for subscribers who don’t want to deal with ads. Eight dollars a month makes it more expensive than Disney Plus, and $5 a month puts it in line with Apple TV Plus — another streaming service trying to find its footing but has at least found some early success with The Morning Show.
An ad-supported free tier is something every media critic and analyst has yelled at Quibi to explore, even before the streaming service launched. It’s incredibly hard to get people to sign up for a service, especially in an oversaturated market like the one that exists today; it’s even harder without a library of popular IP, a big show to draw people in, and attention around the platform in general. Anecdotally, I have never heard anyone outside Media Twitter and Tech Twitter talk about Quibi.
A free tier will hopefully bring new subscribers in for Quibi — subscribers that it desperately needs. There are some hurdles that Quibi will have to figure out. For example, since all of its content is under 10 minutes, forcing people to sit through a barrage of ads could become a nightmare user experience. But if Quibi can manage to bring subscribers in and hold them there until Quibi figures out what its breakout show is, the streamer could see some growth. As I noted last month:
A free tier would help Quibi scale its subscriber count and bring people in who might be put off by the price (or risk of getting charged after a trial). Consumers are more likely to open an app and watch an episode or two if they’re not paying for it; once their Instagram feed is cleared and new tweets are read, why not open Quibi? A free tier would act as a bridge of sorts: it would encourage more people to download the app, sign up, and watch videos while Quibi figures out its content plan. Quibi can start testing new pricing models once it finds a hit, but Quibi needs a constant, sizable audience to do so.
Quibi still has a long road ahead of it, but a free tier might just hold the company over.
Disclosure: Vox Media, which owns The Verge, has a deal with Quibi to produce a show, and there were early talks about a Verge show as well.