why quibi failed

Remember Quibi? you don’t? Here’s a refresher: Quibi was the short-lived “high quality” streamer featuring content lasting ten minutes or less. The platform was the latest technology venture from former chairman of Walt Disney Studios and co-founder of DreamWorks SKG, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Meg Whitman, former CEO and President of Hewlett-Packard served as its CEO. Though the streamer infamously raised nearly $2 billion in funding, its lack of must-see content and initial mobile only viewing option weren’t the only problems that led to the streamer shutting down after an unimpressive eight month run. So how does an endeavor involving Hollywood’s elite talent both in front and behind the camera fail so epically?


“Content is King” isn’t just an empty rallying cry touted by millennial marketing professionals. It’s one of the fundamental rules that any streaming platform should live by. Quibi was set to win in this department with over 175 original shows in its first year–a tall order by any standard. But while Quibi’s lineup was impressive in terms of quantity, quality is where things started to unravel. That’s not to say that Quibi didn’t have any decent offerings. Take Survive, a Sophie Turner and Corey Hawkins led show about two strangers who are the sole remnants of a plane crash in the middle of a snow covered mountain, or Most Dangerous Game, the Liam Hemsworth starring high stakes drama about a terminally ill man engaging in a kill-or-be-killed game to secure a monetary reward for his pregnant wife–these are all good shows, but hardly enough to incentivize Quibi’s minimum $4.99 subscription fee. 


Since its inception Quibi always felt like a lab experiment formulated by people with long resumes and fancy suits. In theory a show following Bachelor alum, Tyler Cameron, as he builds extravagant dog houses for celebrity clients sounds like the sort of thing that Quibi’s caffeine inhaling, social media addicted, twenty-five to thirty year old target audience would be interested in. Except they weren’t. Like, at all. Perhaps it would have worked better as a Snapchat Original? Even scripted shows like The Stranger, or Agua Donkeys lacked a certain intangible infusion of authenticity. Audiences don’t like being forced to watch what someone else thinks they should, and Quibi never managed to feel like anything but.

Quibi [Credit: Youtube]


How does a mobile only streaming platform not launch with the ability to share clips to social? We’re not sure either. But this omission was certainly one of the many nails in Quibi’s digital coffin. Though sharing capabilities eventually did come to the service after much public scrutiny, it was arguably too little too late for the ill-fated streamer. 


Some of Quibi’s earliest marketing videos include celebrities standing in front of a purple backdrop as they fumble through explanations of what exactly Quibi is. On one hand the team responsible for these self-deprecating bits attempted to capitalize on Quibi’s obscure nature as a platform. On the other hand they recognized Quibi’s somewhat confusing value proposition and chose to not even try to explain it. Big Mistake.


Look, we can’t deny COVID-19’s effect on a streaming platform explicitly created to work in conjunction with an on-the-go lifestyle. When shelter in place orders were being given sometime between March and April 2020, Quibi leadership decided to proceed with its planned April 6th launch date. They essentially went head to head with a virus the likes of which we haven’t seen in a hundred years. In the end Quibi just couldn’t compete with mainstays like Disney + and Netflix, the former now sitting at roughly 75 million subscribers at the time of this writing. In an open letter, Katzenberg and Whitman even acknowledged that their decision to launch in the midst of the pandemic likely didn’t help their cause. 

“And yet, Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing.” –mEG WHITMAN & JEFFREY KATZENBERG

If you’re wondering where Quibi goes from here we’ve got some good news. Quibi’s pipeline was recently acquired by Roku and will stream for free at some point this year.