Quibi is closing down for good already. Run by CEO Meg Whitman and Hollywood hotshot Jeffrey Katzenberg (DreamWorks), the streaming service struggled ever since its launch in April. Despite $2 billion in start-up capital, Quibi didn’t last longer than seven months.
Deadline broke the news before Katzenberg and the CEO even had the call with their investors to break the news. Even worse, the two had yet to have a meeting with staffers informing them as well. 200 employees will be out of work now during the pandemic. Quibi will take a few months to close for good. Katzenberg and Whitman’s last hope is to sell off content to other streaming services or a miracle buyer emerges and saves Quibi.
Quibi failed to drum up any buzz or excitement, despite some high-profile names involved in the content. Filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Steven Soderbergh, and Antoine Fuqua all worked on projects for Quibi. The company was all about short-form content, telling episodes in minutes that millennials could watch on a bus ride or on the go. The content was never available on Roku TVs and only phones, which Katzenberg and others knew needed to change to survive.
Katzenberg’s ambitious project didn’t fail because of lack of spending. Advertisements for Quibi were shown during the Super Bowl, the Oscars, and other high-profile TV events. Over the summer, even more money was spent on ads promoting their shows. Quibi spent $63.7 million in getting its name on TV this year. The word failed to spread, however.
Katzenberg blamed the times for Quibi’s failure-to-launch. Although Netflix and other streaming services saw a surge in streaming during the start of the pandemic, Quibi only managed 5.6 million downloads in its first three months. Only a small portion of those downloads led to subscribers. Quibi cost $5 a month; $8 a month without advertisements.
Over the last two weeks, the company was still looking ahead to the future. Finally, Quibi struck deals to have their content available on Apple TV and google. The deals came too late. During the summer, Katzenberg acknowledged Quibi was off to a weak start. “Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch?” Katzenberg asked. “The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted…If we knew on March 1, which is when we had to make the call [about launching], what we know today, you would say that is not a good idea. The answer is, it’s regrettable. But we are making enough gold out of hay here that I don’t regret it.”
Katzenberg expressed confidence moving forward, however. He even went as far as to compare Quibi’s underwhelming launch to Netflix. “I don’t know what people are expecting from us,” he added. “What did Netflix look like 30 days after it launched? To tell me about a company that has a billion users and is doing great in the past six weeks, I’m happy for them, but what the hell does it have to do with me?”
There was talk of layoffs already happening at the company, but that was never confirmed. The company is now a Hollywood cautionary tale. Quibi had all the money and plenty of talent in the world and yet couldn’t last longer than half a year. A major part of the problem was, according to Quibi subscribers, the content wasn’t enticing enough. There was no buzz or excitement. Despite all the big names involved, people simply weren’t interested.