the streaming wars

Quibi Quick Bites the Dust

Anna Kendrick in Dummy, a Quibi show. Photo: Quibi

Well, well, well. Just over six months after it launched, short-form streaming service Quibi is shutting down, The Wall Street Journal reports. Founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, previously Walt Disney Studios chairman and DreamWorks CEO, told investors the news on October 21, according to Journal sources. “We’ll share a statement this afternoon. For now, we don’t have a comment,” a Quibi spokesperson told Vulture. A source also tells Vulture the company is holding an all-hands meeting at 6 p.m. ET on October 21. Katzenberg pulled the plug after a restructuring firm hired by Quibi recommended shutting down as an option earlier this week. That development came after Quibi floated a sale last month, also reported by the Journal.

Since its launch, the service dealt with low viewership on its shows — which include such esteemed fair as The Anna Kendrick Sex Doll Show, er, Dummy; Ashton Kutcher’s Punk’d; and something called Murder House Flip. Katzenberg initially blamed the COVID-19 pandemic, given Quibi’s debut about a month after it began, rather than facing initial issues like the lack of capability to screenshot. But numbers released in July estimated that just 72,000 people converted to paid subscriptions after their three-month free trials expired, finally answering our question “Is Anyone Watching Quibi?” with a resounding “No.” Maybe things would’ve gone differently if they’d called it Omakase instead? Well, here’s to hoping Nikki Fre$h and Gayme Show can land on proper streaming services where they belong, and that Joe Biden doesn’t let CEO Meg Whitman anywhere near his Cabinet.

Update Wednesday, October 21, 7:20 p.m.: You know it’s bad when billionaires are writing apology notes that are available for public consumption. On Wednesday evening, Quibi founders Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg posted an open letter on Medium explaining their decision to disband the streaming platform after just 6 months. “Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did,” wrote Whitman and Katzenberg. “Our failure was not for lack of trying; we’ve considered and exhausted every option available to us.”

In the letter, Whitman and Katzenberg acknowledge that despite their best efforts there may not have been enough demand in the marketplace for a short-form streaming platform, capitulating that “the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service.” They also suspect that Quibi’s failure may have had something to do with the unfortunate timing of the launch, amid a global pandemic. “The circumstances of launching during a pandemic is something we could have never imagined but other businesses have faced these unprecedented challenges and have found their way through it.” In either case, Whitman and Katzenberg expressed their deepest apologies to the employees, investors, partners, and all those who believed in the little engine that served quick bites. “All that is left now is to offer a profound apology for disappointing you and, ultimately, for letting you down. We cannot thank you enough for being there with us, and for us, every step of the way.” See you on the other side, Quibi.

Quibi Quick Bites the Dust