Quibi to shut down, report says, a flameout coming 6 months after launch


Sarah Tew/CNET

Quibi — a star-studded, mostly mobile streaming service that’s struggled to keep up with its early hype — will shut down, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal, a decision coming little more than six months after it launched. 

Quibi, which declined to comment on the report, launched in the US and Canada in April as a service designed to watch on the go — just as swaths of North America were locking down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Its timing was one of several misfortunes, and flawed strategies, that hamstrung the service from reaching its ambitious growth goals. The company’s mobile-only strategy also underestimated viewers’ interest in watching its big-budget programming on TVs. Quibi’s initial design didn’t allow for easy sharing on social networks, stunting virality and word of mouth, and it was hit with a lawsuit from interactive video company Eko, which claimed Quibi’s rotating-screen technology was a rip-off of its own. (Quibi rejected those allegations.)

The company hoped its unconventional strategy — very expensive, star-packed programming released in 10-minute-or-less episodes that you can watch only on phones or mobile devices — would find a sweet spot in a streaming landscape crowded with the likes of NetflixDisney PlusApple TV Plus, Peacock and HBO Max. And of course, Quibi faced a Goliath in YouTube, the short-video specialist that’s already drawing in more than 2 billion viewers every month. 

But the company had a huge war chest, big-name leadership and an eye-popping bill of talent involved. Founded by Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was head of Disney’s movie division in the ’80s and ’90s and co-founded Dreamworks Animation, Quibi raised $1.75 billion from investors including every major Hollywood studio. Quibi’s CEO is Meg Whitman, the former chief of eBay and Hewlett-Packard. 

And its talent roster is a who’s who of Hollywood, including Chrissy TeigenLebron JamesDwayne JohnsonReese WitherspoonChance the RapperKevin HartJennifer LopezIdris ElbaZac EfronTina FeyLiam Hemsworth and husband-and-wife combo Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner (but on different shows), along with innumerable others. It also lured in big-name filmmakers like Steven SpielbergGuillermo del ToroAntoine FuquaCatherine Hardwicke and Ridley Scott to make series. 

The details of how Quibi will wind down are unclear. Whitman has said Quibi has enough content built up to last until late November, and the company reportedly still had more than $200 million on hand as of a month ago. Just earlier this week, the service unveiled new apps for TV-streaming devices like Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. 

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