Jeffrey Katzenberg’s short-form content platform has struggled to make an impact with bad reviews, lack of interest and legal issues swirling
Nearly three months ago, in early April, the $1.75bn content experiment known as Quibi lurched from its rocky, much-maligned promotional campaign into full-scale launch. The service offered a tsunami of celebrity-fronted shows segmented into “quick bites” (hence, “qui-bi”) of 10 minutes or less – a Joe Jonas talkshow, a documentary on LeBron James’s I Promise school, a movie with Game of Thrones’s Sophie Turner surviving a plane crash, all straight to your phone. At the time, many of us wondered if Quibi could deliver on its central promise – to refashion the style of streaming into “snackable” bites – or if, teetering under the weight of its massive funding and true who’s who of talent as the world shut down, it would become shorthand for an expensive mistake.
The service, the brainchild of the DreamWorks Animation co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and the former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman – two billionaires deeply entrenched in the Hollywood and Silicon Valley establishment – was “either going to be a huge home run or a massive swing and a miss”, Michael Goodman, a media analyst with Strategy Analytics, told the Guardian. Given a string of bad news since its 6 April launch – missed targets, executive departures, Katzenberg singularly blaming the pandemic – and the sunset of its 90-day free trial with millions fewer subscribers than anticipated, the scales seemed decidedly tipped toward swing and miss. But while it’s too soon to declare the end of Quibi, it’s still worth asking: is the promise of the quick bite already over? And what went so wrong?