You may not tune into anything on the streaming platform, but if you’re active on social media (or your work Slack), you’ve at least heard the name Quibi, specifically because everyone routinely talked about how they don’t know anyone who watches anything on the streaming platform, which launched earlier this year.
Did this kind of word-of-mouth marketing (not to mention the hyper-ambitious press campaign) work? Not so much. Six months after launching, Quibi is shutting down, according to the Wall Street Journal. In an emotional call to his staff on Wednesday, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg (known for being the co-founder and former CEO of DreamWorks Animation) announced the news and apparently suggested that everyone listen to “Get Back Up Again” from the Trolls soundtrack.
Alrighty. Anyway, like many workers during the global pandemic amid swarms of layoffs, I’m left worried about the staffers who no longer have jobs (shout-out to the Chief Data Officer at Twitter for offering some opportunities, by the way). What will happen to all of the seemingly promising content it acquired? As for the company itself, this was quite the expensive fail—costing investors approximately $2 billion.
So, I’m left wondering—what happened?! Quibi seemed to have everything going for them in terms of content (one of which won a Primetime Emmy this year!) and star power (which also likely factored into their costly front-end budget), but there seemed to be something off about the launch strategy.
Plus, the fact that you could only watch content via your smartphone didn’t seem to connect with people. Sure, that may be the posited future way of doing things as we rely more on our phones, but for me, I’m more likely to watch quick social media clips or microform content (a la TikTok) on my phone—definitely not an entire series. Granted, folks eventually figured out how to stream it on their TV using services like Chromecast or Airplay, but did that do the trick? Doesn’t seem like it. Perhaps it was as simple as the fact that there’s already an over-congestion of streaming platforms.
This is all speculation on my part, though I can report that Katzenberg and Quibi CEO Meg Whitman answered some burning questions about the app’s shutdown in a recent interview with Deadline. Whitman, who confirmed the platform had 600,000 new users in the first week, has cited cash flow as one of the primary challenges with the platform.
“I think Meg has really addressed the internal part of your question in that we just were not scaling fast enough, Katzenberg told Deadline’s Dominic Patten. “You know, given the investment that we were making, the quality and the quantity of the content that we were doing, we needed to really come out of the starting gate in a very big way in order for this to work.”
As for the smorgasbord of content Quibi has, Katzenberg is hopeful it’ll find a new home.
“I think the first opportunity that we think will exist is for Quibi as a service and its content to continue on, on somebody else’s platform,” he said. “That’ll be the first thing that we will want to explore with potential buyers. It is one of the big assets of the company; a hundred shows, an incredible development slate, and as you said some things that have been both big hits but also you know, critically acclaimed, award-winning and critically acclaimed. So that library in its totality, the Quibi service in its totality, is going to be made available to potential buyers.”
Related to what I mentioned above about the over-congestion, Katzenberg offered some insight into that, noting, “everything about Quibi was designed to be on the go, in-between moments at a moment in time which no one was on the go and their in-between moments were on their couch, and suddenly we were competing for people’s attention in a way that we never conceived of or thought of.”
“I think change begets opportunity,” Whitman added. “Every time there is a change in an industry, whether it’s the economic structure or the business models or it’s the creative process or delivery mechanisms, it signals opportunity and that’s one of the things we saw here that change signals opportunity. It didn’t work out for us but it doesn’t mean it won’t work out for existing players or other new players.”
Other than completely shutting down, it looks like Quibi has additional problems to worry about. On Thursday, Variety reported that interactive-video firm Eko decided to continue to pursue its ongoing patent and trade-secret theft lawsuit against Quibi, despite the shutdown news. Yikes.
According to Katzenberg, Quibi will be winding down in the next couple of months. Quibi gone, our nigga dead.