Quibi — the shortform mobile-focused streaming service — is shutting down after just over six months of operation, making it one of the shortest-lived streaming services to date, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company since confirmed that it’ll be shutting down in a Medium post from Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman.
“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,” the announcement reads.
There is any number of factors that can be pointed to in unpacking Quibi’s demise: the launch of a mobile-only streaming service at the height of a global pandemic when users were stuck at home; the lack of any real breakout content that was compelling enough to tempt subscribers; or the fact that shortform video content has a nearly infinite amount of free competition in the form of YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms.
Quibi itself is chalking up the lack of success because “the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing.” The company will be notifying current subscribers as to the final date that they’ll be able to access Quibi.
It’s not clear what will happen to the company’s lineup of expensive, star-studded original shows and shortform films after the shutdown. Earlier reports indicated that Katzenberg had courted Apple, WarnerMedia, and Facebook to try to acquire the beleaguered streaming company earlier this year. When those efforts failed, Katzenberg reportedly tried to get Facebook and NBCUniversal to at least pick up Quibi’s content, to no success. Quibi will continue to attempt to sell both the content and the underlying technology used in its apps in the coming months, however.
Disclosure: Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company. Vox Media also has a deal with Quibi to produce a show, and there were early talks about a Verge show as well.
Quibi launched on April 6th, 2020, just over six months ago, with two plans: $4.99 (with ads) or $7.99 (ad free). The company sought to distinguish itself by focusing exclusively on mobile devices at launch, complete with an innovative system where each show was filmed and edited in both portrait and landscape formats, allowing it to be viewed in any orientation on a smartphone. There was no free option, outside of a lengthy free trial, and no TV apps until just yesterday, when the company launched apps for the Apple TV, Android TV, and Fire TV.
Despite the $1.75 billion Katzenberg and co-founder and CEO Meg Whitman raised, Quibi burst onto the scene with more of a whimper than a bang. While it had plenty of big names attached to its content — and even managed to game its way into two Emmy award wins — it never seemed to manage to actually garner many paid subscribers.
A report from app tracking firm Sensor Tower back in July claimed that Quibi lost over 90 percent of its subscribers after the initial three-month trial ran out, with just 72,000 of its roughly 910,000 users who had signed up at launch sticking around as paid customers. (Quibi has refuted those numbers, claiming that they were “incorrect by an order of magnitude,” but it has never provided any actual subscriber counts of its own.)
The Verge has reached out to Quibi for additional comments.
Update October 21st, 6:00pm: Added additional information on Quibi’s shut down from the company’s official announcement.