Quibi, Short-Form Streaming Service, Shutting Down
Updated at 7:52 p.m. ET
Quibi, the mobile-first streaming service to specialize in original shows with short five to 10-minute-long episodes, is shutting down its business operations and selling its assets little more than 6 months after launching, according to a statement released by the company.
It was an abrupt ending for a company founded by big names in entertainment and business worlds and seemed poised, at one point, to reinvent the streaming TV game.
"Quibi was founded to create the next generation of storytelling," founder and board Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg said in the statement. "The world has changed dramatically since Quibi launched and our standalone business model is no longer viable."
Katzenberg, a former Disney executive who co-founded the studio DreamWorks SKG, made headlines while developing Quibi, reportedly raising almost $2 billion with former HP CEO Meg Whitman onboard at Quibi as its CEO.
"While we have enough capital to continue operating for a significant period of time, we made the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders and say goodbye to our talented colleagues with grace," Whitman added in the statement.
Quibi debuted April 6, touted as a service focused on younger viewers with episodes formatted in "quick bites" – hence, the name – of 10 minutes or less. Shows featured on the streamer included a remake of The Fugitive with Kiefer Sutherland, a version of the prank show Punk'dhosted by Chance the Rapper, a version of the newsmagazine 60 Minutes called 60 in 6 and other shows starring or executive produced by Jennifer Lopez, Laurence Fishburne, Liam Hemsworth and Kevin Hart.
But critics complained that, at launch, it was difficult for users to share what they were watching on social media with friends and tough to find specific programming on the app. Initially, Quibi content was only viewable through the smartphone app and users couldn't watch content on TV sets.
The platform also failed to find a single, galvanizing hit show to gain users' attention, debuting after major new streaming services from Disney and Apple had already been in the marketplace for months.
Quibi dropped out of the list of 50 most downloaded free iPhone apps the week after it debuted, according to a story published in May by The New York Times. Katzenberg told the Timesthat he blamed pandemic lockdown, which kept people isolated in their homes, for struggles at the service — which was initially touted as a way to entertain people too busy commuting or at work for conventional streaming platforms.
"I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus," Katzenberg said to the Timesthen. "Everything. But we own it."
Katzenberg hinted at that cause in the statement about Quibi's shutdown, which also noted the service has more than 100 original series and won two Creative Arts Emmy Awards for the series #FreeRayshawn.
The statement did not say when the service would stop streaming, noting that subscribers will receive separate notifications naming a final date for access.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.