The hotly anticipated streaming service Quibi is pressing on with plans to launch on April 6, despite the major shifts that have taken place in the market since that date was set.

In an interview with Deadline, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg insisted the global pandemic currently sweeping the world would not derail plans to launch the short-form content service.

Quibi is launching with 50 shows; there are 175 shows planned for the first year, with 8,500 episodes. What has changed as a result of the outbreak is that subscription will initially be free, Katzenberg said.

“I feel that that’s our acknowledgement and recognition that there’s a lot of challenges and financial challenges going on for people right now and there’s a lot of uncertainty,” he told Deadline.

“The one thing we can do is to gift this to people and let them check it out and have some fun. If they love it and they think it’s worthwhile, they’ll end up subscribing to it, but I think that pivot on our part to say ‘yes we’re going to go ahead and launch but we’ll make it available for free for 90 days’ was the right thing to do.”

Quibi is being closely watched because of the calibre of creative talent it has managed to assemble, including Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh, Jennifer Lopez, Idris Elba, Kiefer Sutherland and Reese Witherspoon. Katzenberg himself is a former Walt Disney Studios chairman and DreamWorks executive, and his co-founder Meg Whitman is formerly of Hewlett Packard as well as ex-CEO of eBay.

The line-up of heavy hitters is unparalleled, but there remain questions about the relevance of a service focused on segments mostly lasting five to 10 minutes at a time when so many people are looking for something to fill their days.

As the Financial Times reports, Quibi is offering short-form programming designed for people on the go – at a time when very few people are going anywhere. “Isolated viewers want escapism. Ten minutes is not long enough,” its Lex column states.

But Katzenberg insisted that while people have different content needs now, they are neither better nor worse than before for Quibi’s likely appeal among consumers. And he added there were no plans to extend the platform beyond a mobile app on to TV so that people spending more time at home could watch on a bigger screen.

“Whether you need a break from schooling the kids or entertaining them or need a break from sitting on your computer and working … there’s plenty of in-between moments in our lives right now where I think something like this is going to be appreciated and valued,” he said.

Quibi’s launch comes around the same time as HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming services. It is also up against the giant of the streaming category, Netflix, though its entry-level service, costing $4.99 a month with ads after the free trial period, will be cheaper than Netflix. Free, user-generated content on services such as YouTube and TikTok are now more popular than ever.

Katzenberg says he’s excited and confident. “I think that we’re about to bring some joy and happiness and laughter and something different to people’s lives in a moment in time, which you can’t get enough of that.”

Sourced from Deadline, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff