Quibi will go down in history as one of the shortest-lived streaming services in history. The mobile-focused platform confirmed that it will be shutting down after a mere six months of operation. The move came as a surprise on Wednesday afternoon, though many people saw the writing on the wall almost as soon as Quibi launched.
The irony of the short-form video platform’s early demise isn’t lost.
In an announcement, Quibi’s Jeffery Katzenberg and Meg Whitman said, “We feel that we’ve exhausted all our options. As a result we have reluctantly come to the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our colleagues with grace.”
Why is Quibi Shutting Down?
Quibi was one of the most unusual—and exciting at times—stories in the tech world at the start of 2020. It promised to offer subscribers content they had never seen before featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest names. By exclusively supporting mobile devices at launch and focusing on short episodes, Quibi tried to set itself apart from larger competitors in the streaming world.
Although any number of things could have contributed to Quibi’s untimely exit from the space, a few stick out. For one, it launched a mobile-first platform in the midst of a global pandemic when consumers were stuck at home with their TVs and laptops. Of course, the abundance of free short-form video content on platforms like YouTube and TikTok is also a likely culprit.
Though Quibi wasn’t expensive at just $4.99 a month for the ad-supported version, that’s a lot to pay for content that never really gained any traction. The company attributes its lack of success to the fact that “the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing.”
When Quibi launched on April 6 earlier this year, it attracted a sizeable number of subscribers. However, a problem quickly emerged when the three-month free trial period ended. Reports claimed that more than 90 percent of the company’s subscribers canceled their membership after the free period. Quibi supposedly retained just 72,000 paying users. Although the company said that those numbers were “incorrect by an order of magnitude,” it also never provided data of its own to validate that claim.
Regardless, the numbers that Quibi generated in its short lifespan didn’t come close to justifying the $1.75 billion raised by Katzenberg and Whitman ahead of its launch.
What Comes Next?
In its announcement on Wednesday, Quibi said that it intends to notify subscribers before the platform permanently shuts down. It wouldn’t be surprising to see that happen before the end of the year.
As for Quibi’s content, the path forward remains unclear. The company has reportedly tried to get Apple, WarnerMedia, and Facebook to acquire its business. Likewise, it allegedly tried to sell its content and underlying technology to both Facebook and NBCUniversal. Thus far, there has been no success on either front.
Quibi will undoubtedly continue to try and sell its content in the coming months. Surely a streaming service—perhaps a smaller competitor—would be happy to acquire the shows starring noteworthy actors and actresses.
For Quibi, the past six months didn’t go as planned. It will sadly go down as one of the biggest flops in the history of streaming.