Short Drama Apps Turn Quibi’s Failure into a $146M Success in Q1, With Revenue Surging 56% Last Month Alone

Randy Nelson Randy Nelson
5 minute read Apr. 11

Launched just as much of the world was curtailing commuting, office work with its requisite breaks, and basically any situation where consuming a Quibi — “quick bites” of video that added up to a full episode or film — made sense, the app known as Quibi redefined what it meant to have poor product-market fit.

It was gone almost before the enormous marketing campaign surrounding its launch had ended. It also seemed for all intents and purposes that anything even remotely resembling a Quibi would have a hard time gaining traction with consumers again.

Fast forward about four years and Quibi’s time has finally come; only now the concept has a new moniker — "short dramas" — and a very different reception. In fact, short drama apps are one of the hottest trends in apps at the moment.

The Hottest Trend

The 66 active apps generating revenue as identified using Appfigures Explorer drove $146 million in global consumer spending in Q1 2024 across the App Store and Google Play, a roughly 8,000% increase over the $1.8 million spent in the short drama apps available in the first quarter of last year.

Worldwide spending in these apps last month totaled approximately $65 million, setting a new monthly high for the apps and towering more than 10,500% over March 2023’s total of $619K spent. Clearly, in terms of adoption and monetization, these apps are experiencing a moment, and perhaps just the beginning of an even greater one.

All told, these apps have attracted an estimated $245 million in worldwide gross revenue and 121 million downloads.

Dramatic Revenue Growth and Clear Leaders

Monthly revenue growth for these apps began to accelerate in the fall of 2023, as seen in the chart below. This was driven in part by effective marketing, ad spend, and consumer interest, but also through the number of apps available versus a year prior. The 66 apps on the stores as of last quarter was more than triple the 21 available in Q1 2023.

Revenue trend - Short Drama streaming apps on the App Store and Google Play

Teasing out the top 10 highest earning apps in Q1, we found that the leader, ReelShort, is in a relatively close heat with No. 2 app DramaBox in terms of how much of the group’s total revenue they command.

With $52 million and close to $34 million spent in them globally last quarter, respectively, this places ReelShort’s share of the top 10 cohort’s revenue at about 37% while DramaBox accounts for about 24%. No. 3 ShortTV’s $17 million grossed worldwide in Q1 was a steep drop — just 12% of the total.

Highest Earning Short Drama streaming apps on the App Store and Google Play

Compared to the top 10 apps in the closely associated short video (see: TikTok) and streaming video genres, short drama apps represent just a small fraction of the shared consumer spending among the three. They made up 6.7% of the estimated $1.87 billion the three genres combined for worldwide in Q1.

Still, this was a dramatic climb from the 0.15% share of the $1.2 billion they all accounted for in Q1 2023. While impressive, the top short drama app by revenue, ReelShort, shows that even the largest of these apps has a long way to go before they stack up well against the top short video and streaming video apps. It brought in about 9% of TikTok’s in-app revenue for Q1 and 11% of that made by Disney+, the top-earning video streaming app.

When discussing monetization, TikTok is also an apt comparison as, like it, the short drama apps rely on users purchasing coins or some other in-app currency used in lieu of traditional subscriptions. While in ByteDance’s social app, coins are used to tip live content creators, short drama apps rely on users pumping virtual currency into the programming itself to keep it going, much like the coin-operated film viewers of old.

ReelShort is in the top 100 grossing apps on iPhone in 116 markets. (It’s top 10 in 15 smaller countries.) In comparison, the top short videos app, TikTok, is in the top 10 grossing apps on iPhone in 129 markets.

ReelShort’s top revenue-generating market, and for all top 10 short drama apps in fact, is the United States. Despite this, the app has seen some of its highest revenue ranks on iOS outside the U.S. For instance, studying ranking data for January 2024 to present, ReelShort reached No. 9 in the Philippines on April 5, when on the same day it was ranked No. 40 for U.S. consumer spending. Previously on March 2, it was No. 8 in the Philippines and No. 57 in the U.S. for this metric.

Downloads Are Increasing, Too

Looking at downloads, growth has been nothing short of staggering in that respect as well. While a far cry from the 8,000% year-over-year increase in short drama app spending we observed in Q1, first-time installs of these apps — not counting downloads to multiple devices under the same account, reinstalls, updates, and so on — totaled close to 37 million on 992% YoY growth from just about 3.4 million in Q1 2023.

Downloads trend - Short Drama streaming apps on the App Store and Google Play

The top two most downloaded apps are once again relatively closely matched for how much of the top 10’s total they account for.

In this case, ReelShort is at No.1 as it is for revenue, while ShortTV sits at No. 2, accounting for approximately 37% and 27% of the total, respectively. DramaBox, which was No. 2 for consumer spending, was No. 3 for downloads with 7 million to its name in Q1.

Most Downloaded Short Drama streaming apps on the App Store and Google Play

Although spending in short drama apps has been driven in large part by the U.S. market, the situation sees a more varied mix when it comes to downloads. The U.S. remains the top country for ReelShort as the No. 1 most frequently installed app. Other markets and regions, such as Southeast Asia and Latin America, have greater appetites for at least trying these apps than the U.S. has mustered.

Short Drama in the Long Haul

It’s without question that short drama apps are hot at the moment — there is an unknown, however, when it comes to their ability to sustain momentum. Case in point: While the all-important revenue-generating capacity of this genre increases, the rate at which new entrants are joining the landscape slowed in Q1.

Nine short drama apps debuted globally last quarter, compared to 17 — nearly double — in Q4 2023.

Nevertheless, this is a genre to follow closely. Should competition intensify as it did in short video, it’s not unreasonable to expect the emergence of innovations that spill over into all corners of the app ecosystem.

App Intelligence for Everyone!

The insights in this report come right out of our App Intelligence platform, which offers access to download and revenue estimates, installed SDKs, and more! Learn more about the tools or schedule a demo with our team to get started.

Are you a Journalist? You can get access to our app and market intelligence for free through the Appfigures for Journalists program. Contact us for more details.

All figures included in this report are estimated. Unless specified otherwise, estimated revenue is always net, meaning it's the amount the developer earned after Apple and Google took their fee.

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