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Streaming Flop Quibi Closing Down After Burning Through $1.75 Billion of Investors’ Money

Phillip Dampier October 21, 2020 Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

Quibi is closing down its streaming service in the next several weeks, sources told the Wall Street Journal this afternoon, after spending $1.75 billion of investors’ money and attracting few subscribers and a lawsuit.

The service, founded by Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, never found a footing in the highly competitive streaming business, and has been plagued with problems since its April debut. Katzenberg envisioned the service as a home for short-form video entertainment — typically 5-10 minute chapters of professionally produced shows, designed to be watched by people on the go. Quibi was specifically developed for smartphone viewing, which meant producers had to create shows specifically for small screens. For technical reasons, Quibi was difficult to view in-home.

Katzenberg argued the service would fill a streaming niche for people looking for short video fixes instead of long form programming, arguing highly produced shows would attract a different audience than amateur short-form clips from services like YouTube.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, forcing most would-be Quibi subscribers into home lockdown for school and work. It could not have come at a worse time for Quibi. Soon after debuting, scathing reviews about the quality of some Quibi productions were also published, further deterring would-be customers.

Quibi’s advertising partners, which included Pepsi and Walmart, were patient with the service, but after six months of low viewer numbers, many advertisers began deferring payments on their combined commitment of $150 million in advertising.

Also in early March, a patent infringement lawsuit over Quibi’s Turnstyle feature, which lets viewers watch video horizontally or vertically on their devices and rotate between those positions without disrupting the experience, was filed by Eko, which claimed it invented and patented the technology and saw its work stolen by Quibi employees. Although Quibi won a motion to limit the lawsuit, litigation was expected to continue in a California court.

Over the summer, media reports noted 90% of free trial subscribers canceled their subscription before charges began, revealing Quibi had just 72,000 paid subscribers willing to spend $4.99 a month, a fraction of the tens of millions of subscribers other streaming platforms have attracted.

The Journal reported on Wednesday that Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg called investors to tell them he is shutting the service down. A restructuring firm hired to examine options for the streaming platform reportedly made several recommendations to Quibi’s board of directors, but it seems a complete shutdown was chosen as the best option.

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Stop the Cap!