Quibi, the Mobile-Native Short Form Streaming Contender, to Shut Down After Less Than a Year
According to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, Quibi co-founder Jeffrey Katzenburg has confirmed that the service will shutter its doors, after initial reporting that its board was presented several options by a restructuring firm that was hired.
Being a truncation of “Quick Bites”, Quibi was to represent the place where young generations on the move would get their entertainment in quick segments or episodes of around 10 minutes (think on the metro, or in the back of an Uber). This was all before the coronavirus shutdowns effectively halted the economy of the world and the movement of its population. The company’s executives have said that this unforeseen paralysis of the world was at least partly to blame for the lack of adoption.
Quibi offered generous free trials, some going up to around 3 months. The conversions perhaps did not show that that investment paid off — which one could also perhaps attribute to the sheer breadth of the competition of the streaming world. When people are at home, there is a plethora of free trials they can try out, perhaps only committing to a select few. While at home, 10 minute episodes do not really make that much sense.
Quibi worked with filmmakers and writers to produce content for the small screen, like the handheld theater of the smartphone. It brought some interesting concepts like making the display of the character’s phone be completely displayed on the viewer’s screen, giving a certain immersive experience.
Another notable feature was the reactive nature for the movement between the portrait and landscape views of the user’s phone. Quibi programs made the transition very seamless and made it so it did not detract from the experience, but actually sometimes revealed more of the scene to the viewer.
Beginnings and Executive Team
From a theater at Park MGM in Las Vegas, Nevada as part of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January of this year, Quibi was unveiled to the world.
Quibi’s principal visionary was Jeffrey Katzenburg, a well-seasoned executive from Disney and co-founder of Dreamworks, which brought the world such animated worldwide blockbuster classics such as The Prince of Egypt and Shrek.
Meg Whitman, veteran tech executive and former California gubernatorial candidate, was Quibi’s CEO and was there in Las Vegas, reiterating Katzenberg’s vision for the future of multimedia that Quibi was to spearhead. One might imagine that she tried various strategies but was handcuffed in the effect she could have in the face of different occurrences that were larger than Quibi — and perhaps the idea that the concept was just too early or the target audience too narrow.
Even with a partnership with T-Mobile in the US, which is growing in market share with its acquisition of Sprint and rollout of nationwide 5G, still Quibi could not reach a critical mass of paid subscriptions. Quibi offered two types of subscriptions, one completely without ads, and one partly supported by ads for less.
At the time the concept seemed promising: In the world of streaming, there seemed to be little innovative thought around how this content was being produced and consumed, and Quibi presented itself as at the vanguard of the medium of the moving picture. The company also previewed some of its original content and the names and faces of well-known stars in the movie and television industries that would lend their gravitas to the project’s mission — who wanted to be at the forefront of a shift in their industry, which was commendable.
Quibi offered a wide variety of content that sometimes hit, but often did not seem to have enough hits to justify paying a monthly subscription fee. If you have two programs you enjoy and want to see more of, and the episodes are only 10 minutes, and a season is say 10 episodes long, are you going to continually pay to be able to wait for a new season to come around or for the chance something else will pull you in?
For a service that had little name recognition, and which was trying its hand at a totally new path for streaming content — the answer was no for many. To add to the currents Quibi had to fight against, the coronavirus economy meant that many were trying to cut expenses, and Quibi probably did provide enough reason or value to make it into the budget of many. Another consideration for the demise of Quibi could be that its target audience actually is accustomed to finding something new at an increasingly rapid rate. This could be a reason one might be able to say Quibi had a slim chance of making itself into a household name and strong business like Netflix.
Two programs I enjoyed on Quibi were Kirby Jenner and Dishmantled, the former being actually pretty funny and entertaining even for someone that knew very little about Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
With the laying to rest of Quibi, the observers of digital media and the streaming wars look ahead to what new formats and contenders may arise to try their own hand.