Quibi was designed to be short-form–but, little did the company’s founders realize, the business itself would be over in the blink of an eye. The start-up, which raised nearly $2 billion in investments and spent lavishly on star-studded original content, is reported to be shutting down. It launched just six months ago.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, the entertainment super-exec who co-founded the company with former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, made initial calls to investors on Wednesday morning with the news, according to The Wall Street Journal. A more formal call detailing the financial future of the company is expected to take place before the end of today, during which investors–including Walt Disney Co., AT&T, and NBCUniversal–will learn more about what is to come.
Questions are expected to include what will happen to the sizable catalog of original content already produced. Reports in recent days had indicated that an attempt was made to offload programming to NBCUniversal or Facebook, but it appears those deals failed to materialize as of today’s announcement, perhaps in part because, the Journal notes, Quibi does not actually outright own many of the shows, instead having lured A-list talent with deals intended to revert rights to creators at some future point.
While Quibi-skeptics abounded even before the platform’s launch, timing may have complicated things for the company. Quibi’s raison d’être was to fill short bursts of time throughout a user’s day–say, commuting on the subway, waiting for an appointment, or in between school classes–with five- to 10-minute mobile-only “bites” of content. Pandemic stay-at-home orders meant that, just as the service was attempting to attract subscribers, many of those potential subscribers were staying at home, watching full-size televisions, and not finding themselves out and about, in need of mini-shows.
Quibi execs had initially projected the service would sign up 7 million paid subscribers in its first year of operation. Reality is understood to have fallen far short of that, though by exactly how much is somewhat difficult to confirm, as the company has not published conclusive numbers. The Information reported earlier this month that the number may be between 400,000 and 500,000. According to The Verge, more than 90 percent of users who signed up for a free trial of Quibi ultimately unsubscribed at the end of the trial, rather than converting to paying customers (Quibi issued a statement after the publication of that report calling the analysis “incorrect,” but did not produce specific data refuting it).
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