Struggling streaming service Quibi’s days appear to be numbered. The mobile-centric platform, which burned through a mind-boggling amount of investor cash trying to strong-arm its way into the streaming wars, may be imminently shut down, according to numerous reports about co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg’s failed attempts to salvage the company and its intellectual property.
How exactly Quibi bites the dust is still a bit up in the air, though. The Information reported on Tuesday that company executives are considering shutting down the whole operation, after Katzenberg tried and failed to sell some of Quibi’s programming to companies like Facebook and NBCUniversal.
The Wall Street Journal followed that up with a report that Quibi has hired a restructuring firm to explore all of its options, with a call with investors scheduled for sometime today to lay some out on the table. That includes selling the company to any would-be buyers, although reports have swirled for weeks now about Quibi’s failed attempts to court corporate buyers like Comcast to swoop in for the sale.
One thing is clear: Quibi is very likely on its deathbed, and the $1.75 billion Katzenberg and co-founder and CEO Meg Whitman raised from investors from some of the entertainment telecommunications industry’s biggest players will not have done much to save it.
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company. Vox Media also has a deal with Quibi to produce a show, and there were early talks about a Verge show as well.
Quibi can’t be accused of a lack of trying. The company hired many talented people to build its app, and then it hired many other talented people to make the stuff that would stream through it. But the central hook of Quibi — bite-sized entertainment for a generation of smartphone-toting millennials and teens on the go — appeared to falter when met with reality. Quibi’s success was surely not helped by the COVID-19 pandemic that kept everyone indoors and more glued to Netflix and other services better served on larger screens.
Yet, Quibi also never had a breakout hit on par with Netflix’s House of Cards that could help it capture the cultural zeitgeist of a society sheltering in place. And then the company stumbled when it came to adapting to pandemic habits, with Quibi slow to add critical features like the ability to capture and share screen grabs and videos from within its app — integral for capitalizing on meme-worthy moments — and launch a smart TV version of the service for watching beyond mobile. Quibi’s Apple TV, Android TV, and Fire TV apps just launched… yesterday, six months after the service first went live on mobile.
It’s not fair to say the platform was doomed to fail. There are many ways in which it could have conceivably succeeded. But the world is a very different place than it was before Quibi’s April launch, and it appears neither the entertainment industry nor viewers have much use now for a streaming service incapable of attracting any eyeballs.
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