Is Quibi Back? Short-Form Drama Apps Break Revenue Records in First Quarter of 2024

Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg ultimately blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the failure of his short-form video app, but maybe it was just too soon. In the first quarter of 2024, 66 short drama apps like ReelShort and DramaBox pulled in record revenue of $146 million in global consumer spending. In March 2024 alone, consumers spent $65 million on short drama apps, a 10,500% increase from the $619,000 spent in March 2023. In Q1 2024, short drama apps were installed nearly 37 million times, up 992% from 3.4 million in Q1 2023. Short drama apps claimed a 6.7% share of the total across all three categories combined, up from 0.15% a year ago.

Could Quibi have been too ahead of its time? The founder of the short-form video app, Jeffrey Katzenberg, may have attributed its failure to the COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps it simply wasn’t the right time. New app store data suggests that the concept popularized by Quibi – cutting original shows into short clips for quick entertainment – is now making a strong comeback. In the first quarter of 2024, 66 short drama apps, such as ReelShort and DramaBox, saw a record revenue of $146 million in global consumer spending.

This represents an astonishing 8,000% increase from just $1.8 million in the first quarter of 2023, when there were only 21 short drama apps available. From then on, another 45 apps entered the market, contributing to a total of approximately $245 million in gross consumer spending and 121 million downloads.

But the growth in revenue really kicked into gear in fall of 2023, according to data from app intelligence firm Appfigures. This led to a significant jump in revenue between February and March of this year, with global revenue increasing by 56% to reach $65.7 million, up from $42 million. While the increase in available apps certainly contributed to this growth, marketing efforts, advertising expenses, and consumer interest also played a major role.

The top apps by revenue – ReelShort (No. 1) and DramaBox (No.2) – earned $52 million and $35 million, respectively, in Q1 2024. That accounts for approximately 37% and 24% of the total revenue generated by the top 10 apps.

ShortTV ranked as the third top app by revenue, grossing $17 million globally in Q1, which is about 12% of the total.

What’s intriguing about these apps, compared to Quibi’s previous attempt to establish itself in this market, is the quality of content. In fact, it’s significantly worse than Quibi’s own content, which wasn’t always great to begin with. As TechCrunch described in relation to ReelShort last year, the stories in the app are “like snippets from low-quality soaps- or as if those mobile storytelling games came to life.”

Despite the poor acting and writing, these apps seem to have found a small but dedicated audience.

The United States is the clear leader in terms of top markets for this group, both in terms of installs and revenue. But the charts differ in terms of which countries are downloading the content versus paying for it.

By installs, the top markets after the U.S. are Indonesia, India, the Philippines, and Brazil. On the other hand, the U.K., Australia, Canada, and the Philippines make up the top markets by revenue, aside from the U.S.

In Q1 of 2024 alone, short drama apps were downloaded close to 37 million times, which marks a 992% growth from 3.4 million in Q1 of 2023. By downloads, the top two apps are ReelShort and ShortTV, with the former accounting for 37% of installs (13.3 million) and the latter with 10 million installs (27%). Even though DramaBox is ranked second by consumer spending, it comes in third by installs, with 7 million (19%) downloads.

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Mirroring wider app store trends, the majority of the revenue (63%) is generated on iOS, while Android accounts for the majority (67%) of downloads.

Despite this growth, these apps are nowhere near as popular as their closest competitors: short-form video and streaming video. Short drama apps only hold a 6.7% share of the total across all three categories combined, which is a significant increase from 0.15% a year ago. However, the broader video app market earns much more money. For example, just the top 10 apps from the three combined categories, including popular apps like TikTok and Disney+, earned a whopping $1.8 billion in Q1.

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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