Quibi seemed like a good idea, at the time. Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay and Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman founded Quibi with the goal of becoming “the HBO of short-form mobile video”. What did that mean? With millions of commuters worldwide, and millions of kids too, all-consuming “content” via their mobile phones when on the move (or all the time if under about 19 years old) then high-quality shows specifically produced for this medium, and written to be consumed in easily digestible, bite-sized chunks, actually made sense. You could envisage a world where you settled down on the train, bus, subway, or in your futuristic commuter-pod to work in the morning and got all caught up on their latest show.
The mobile-only streaming platform raised $1.75 billion in capital. Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Jennifer Lopez, Sam Raimi, Reese Witherspoon, Antoine Fuqua, Lena Waithe, Kevin Hart, and Steven Soderbergh all had projects in the pipeline for the platform. It launched to a blaze of publicity in launched April 2020.
Unfortunately, so did COVID. The world found itself locked in their homes with a TV, and commuting became a distant memory. For the “laptop class” it remains so today. I am writing this from my home office, coffee in hand, lounge pants remaining on.
Quibi failed to grab enough subscribers once its core audience was basically removed. It grabbed 710,000 subscriber households in the third quarter of 2020, way down from the 7 million that was in their year-one business plan.
Katzenberg demonstrates his growth mindset which probably explains why he probably gave this interview to LinkedIn, reported by Variety, from his yacht. He says he remains proud of the effort he put into the startup:
“I’m humbled by the failure, but I’m proud that what we tried was a moonshot… Owning my failures is as important, or actually more than owning my successes. I’m proud to own the failure. I’m not proud of the failure. But I’m proud of what we tried. It was a moonshot. It wasn’t fun failing – I don’t recommend it – but it’s going to come.”
Roku paid less than $100 million to acquire all the assets of Quibi just three months after it was closed for good.
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