The Failure of Quibi


In today’s world of consuming media content, we as a society have thrived at an on-demand setting. The days of flicking on your remote to find something good to watch are now fading away. Instead, we have become the masters of our own time and no longer are we slaves to the channels telling us what to do. These days, we can choose from a wealth of streaming services that provide a greater wealth of movies and shows to watch. Not only that, but short-form content viewable from our mobile phones has been on the rise as well. 

The landscape of entertainment has changed, and for Quibi, it was a landscape they believed was theirs for the taking – and yet, it never happened. Instead of being the little engine that could, Quibi was instead the little engine that failed to start. 

However, it wasn’t actually for a lack of trying. Quibi was the brainchild of Jeffrey Katzenberg, a man who’s had quite a lot of experience in the entertainment realm. Katzenberg was once chairman of Disney and later formed DreamWorks. Many timeless animation classics from both companies (such as Shrek, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and The Prince of Egypt) were all brought to life under his watchful eye. If anyone had a great track record to make anything succeed, it was Katzenberg. Alongside him was Meg Whitman, a former executive at both the companies Katzenberg was a part of. In her own right, she had also dabbled in the tech world as a former CEO of eBay. 

Joining forces and seeing the change in the way people consume content, they founded Quibi. The logic they had in coming up with Quibi was to give a Hollywood-level budget and feel to short-form entertainment. Quibi managed to raise a whopping 1 billion dollars for this endeavor, with financial contributions coming in from the likes of Disney, WarnerMedia, 21st Century Fox, NBC and many more. It’s safe to say that Katzenberg convinced all these major corporations to believe in what Quibi could do. Little did they know that the money would be all for naught. 

Quibi launched in April of 2020 after a string of expensive Super Bowl halftime ads hyped up its arrival. It was within these ads that we were told Quibi stood for “quick bites” – programming you could watch on the go. Flocked with its patented Turnstyle technology, where you could watch both horizontally and vertically with the footage adjusting accordingly, it painted Quibi as a forward-thinking company with a lot of room for growth. However, instead of debuting with a bang, it instead came out on a whimper.

The first thing – and the one Mr. Katzenberg pointed his finger at the most – that contributed to Quibi’s failure was the coronavirus pandemic. 2020 was a harsh year for people from all walks of life. Everyone had to stay at home as much as possible in order to keep themselves and others safe, and this new way of life we all had to adapt to hit Quibi the hardest. Since Quibi was made to be consumed on the go and using smartphones, it had nothing to gain from the new normal. While other streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu showed an uptick in its subscriber count and usage, Quibi gained 1.5 million in its first week which was a measly number in the eyes of its founder. 

Next, the variety of content Quibi touted simply was not up to snuff. The likes of The Most Dangerous Game (a thriller starring Thor’s lesser-known brother, Loki Liam) 50 States of Fright (Tales of the Crypt but with a story from every state) and Chrissy’s Court (Chrissy Teigen’s own rendition of Judge Judy) may have served as passable filler for a stacked library such as Netflix’s, but strong enough flag-bearers for Quibi they weren’t. They weren’t simply interesting enough against the likes of The Queen’s Gambit. This also brings us to the last, and arguably, main reason why Quibi failed despite all the money and goodwill put into it. 

It was floored by its real competition. 

One might think that being beaten soundly by the likes of longform streaming services is bad already, but in truth, Quibi’s real competition were other short-form entertainment platforms. Not many, if at all, were willing to fork up money especially if two of the biggest sites in the world – YouTube and Tiktok – already provided countless hours of entertainment for free. The existence of these two platforms (with Snap as a distant third) proved to be a Goliath that Quibi just couldn’t conquer, even with the backing of investors and boatloads upon boatloads of money. 

With the track record that Whitman and Katzenberg had, perhaps they thought that Quibi was too big to fail. Unfortunately, mere six months after its launch, Quibi shut down – and when abiding by their glossary of terms, Quibi did indeed last for only a Quibi.

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