The service launched last Monday in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, calling into question whether consumers would adopt the mobile streaming platform while cooped up at home with full-screen TVs. Quibi, which stands for "quick bites," was initially envisioned as an app users would pull up to watch something while out and about, like waiting in line for coffee or commuting, experiences few consumers are having these days.
"It turns out people have in-between moments at home," Whitman said. "We don't actually think it hurt us."
But Whitman said the first week downloads surpassed expectations while sign-ups are still within a 90-day free trial period. In an early sign of engagement, Whitman said 80% of people who have started a show watch it through the first episode.
Still, the adoption is small relative to launches like Disney's streaming service, Disney+, which announced the day after it started that it had more than 10 million subscribers. Unlike Disney, Quibi's brand is new and relatively unknown, meaning it's relied on advertising and celebrities in its shows to make a name for itself.
With so many potential customers for Quibi working from home as stay-at-home orders sweep the U.S., Whitman said the company is accelerating its plans to enable the app to cast to TVs. While the feature wasn't planned to be part of the launch, Whitman said it was always in the cards for later on.
Quibi has sold out its advertising slate for the first year, Whitman said, pushing off anxiety other companies may be feeling about advertising prospects in the midst of an economic downturn.
After a 90-day trial, users who want to stick with Quibi can pay $4.99 per month for the ad-supported version or $7.99 per month for no ads. Even with tightening wallets, Whitman said she believes there is a unique place for Quibi alongside TV-based streaming subscriptions consumers already own.
"They're three different use cases," she said, referring to TV streaming services, music services and Quibi.
Disclosure: CNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal, is an investor in Quibi.