Quibi Shutting Down Six Months After Launching

Quibi, the short-form subscription video service launched in April by DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and eBay founder Meg Whitman, is ceasing operations.

Katzenberg informed investors Oct. 21 about the shutdown, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the situation.

Later that day, after the Wall Street Journal report, Quibi confirmed the shutdown on the Medium website, in “an open letter to the employees, investors, and partners who believed in Quibi and made this business possible.”

“It is with an incredibly heavy heart that today we are announcing that we are winding down the business and looking to sell its content and technology assets,” Katzenberg and Whitman said in the letter, which bore both of their signatures.

Katzenberg has hired a reorganization firm to help sell Quibi assets after the entertainment mogul was unable to sell the platform to NBCUniversal — which acquired DreamWorks Animation in 2016 for $3.8 billion. Quibi reportedly didn’t own most of its original programs, which undermined sale efforts.

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The service targeted mobile-device users with original programming from five minutes to 10 minutes in length — and was backed by a $1.75 billion content war chest. Despite the hype and big-name talent (Anna Kendrick, Chrissy Teigen, Christoph Waltz and Liam Hemsworth, etc.) associated with content production, few consumers opted in beyond the free trial period.

Analysts suggested just 8% of initial free Quibi trial users converted to paying subs in the first month. Katzenberg, in media interviews over the summer, attributed the sluggish start to the coronavirus pandemic and the fact many potential subscribers were stuck at home watching TV instead of their mobile devices. Even worse, Quibi content was only available on portable devices — not televisions — at launch.

The app lasted a fraction of the time of Verizon’s $1 billion cellphone-based video misstep, go90, which shuttered in 2018 after three underwhelming years.

In the letter, Katzenberg and Whitman wrote, “Quibi was a big idea and there was no one who wanted to make a success of it more than we did. Our failure was not for lack of trying; we’ve considered and exhausted every option available to us…. We opened the door to the most creative and imaginative minds in Hollywood to innovate from script to screen and the result was content that exceeded our expectations. We challenged engineers to build a mobile platform that enabled a new form of storytelling — and they delivered a groundbreaking and delightful service. And we were joined by ten of the most important advertisers in the world who enthusiastically embraced new ways for their brands to tell their stories. With the dedication and commitment of our employees and the support we received from our investors and partners, we created a new form of mobile-first premium storytelling.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, Meg Whitman at PGA event June 8 in Los Angeles

“And yet, Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn’t strong enough to justify a standalone streaming service or because of our timing. Unfortunately, we will never know but we suspect it’s been a combination of the two. The circumstances of launching during a pandemic is something we could have never imagined but other businesses have faced these unprecedented challenges and have found their way through it. We were not able to do so….

“We want you to know that we got up every day and genuinely loved coming to work with the most remarkable and passionate team that we have ever assembled. We will be forever proud of the extraordinary partnership we were able to forge between the best of Hollywood and Silicon Valley. All that is left now is to offer a profound apology for disappointing you and, ultimately, for letting you down. We cannot thank you enough for being there with us, and for us, every step of the way.”

Report: Quibi Exploring Sale/Merger Options

Quibi, the mobile-centric subscription streaming service launched in April by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, is reportedly looking to go on the sale block or seek acquisition with a private equity group.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, reported Katzenberg, who co-founded and sold DreamWorks Animation, and Whitman, former CEO of eBay, are exploring all options after the service failed to meet subscriber and advertising goals.

Publicly, the two executives say they remain confident in the platform and a “new form” of storytelling.

Indeed, the $4.99 monthly service with ads ($7.99 without ads), backed by $1.75 billion in venture funding, launched with a series of original short-form videos, including Emmy-winning “#FreeRayshawn,” a drama about a black Iraq War veteran (Stephan James) who finds himself the target of a SWAT team for a crime he didn’t commit.

Yet, data firm Sensor Tower has suggested the service will generate less than 2 million subcribers by the end of the year — a fraction of the company’s 7.4 million year-end goal.

“We are committed to continuing to build the business in the way that gives the greatest experience for customers, greatest value for shareholders and greatest opportunity for employees,” Katzenberg and Whitman said in a joint statement.

Quibi Gets Legal Win Amid Ongoing Consumer Indifference

Quibi, the $1.7 billion funded subscription streaming video service from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and eBay founder Meg Whitman, got a legal break from ongoing concerns about its underwhelming business model.

A Los Angeles District Court judge July 13 ruled against tech rival Eko’s claim that Quibi illegally uses its “turnstile” technology enabling users to alter how they watch video on portable devices by filling the screen whether the device is held vertically or horizontally.

“In short, Eko fails to make a clear showing of irreparable harm suffered by way of reputation and goodwill,” Judge Christina Snyder wrote denying Eko a preliminary injunction.

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Quibi heralded the decision, contending Eko never had a case, and alleging the litigation was an attempt at a payday.

“We will continue to aggressively defend ourselves,” said the streamer.

A lawyer representing Eko said the decision would be appealed.

“We look forward to presenting the merits of the case at trial, including our request for substantial damages,” Neel Chatterjee said in a statement.

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Regardless, Quibi, which offers subscribers access to original content no longer than 10 minutes in length for $4.99 (with ads) and $7.99 (without ads), has struggled to retain subscribers. The service claims its app has been downloaded more than 5.6 million times since the April launch. How many are active subscribers has not been disclosed.

Quibi Announces Executive Pay Cuts Amid Layoff Rumors

Mobile streaming service Quibi, still reeling from anemic subscriber numbers following its April 6 launch, announced senior executives have agreed to take a 10% pay cut while disputing rumors that it was contemplating layoffs.

In a report published by Deadline, Quibi founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman sent an internal memo to employees saying the reports of the company’s financial troubles were overblown. The Wall Street Journey had been reporting the company was exploring laying off 10% of its 250-person workforce.

“Quibi is in a good financial position,” stated the memo, which was printed in full by Deadline. “We will look for ways to tighten our belt. We are not laying off staff as a part of cost saving measures. We’ve recently added a dozen new Quibi employees.

“And in regard to tightening our belt, our senior leadership team has volunteered to take a 10% pay cut because it’s the right thing to do.”

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The memo further stated that the executives were “proud of the work that Jim Toth and the Content team are doing every day. Their integrity and commitment to their work is unparalleled and we are fortunate to have them on our team. They have delivered compelling content that is working great with our audiences.”

The memo also blasted a story by the New York Post claiming staffers were unhappy by Reese Witherspoon’s $6 million salary to narrate a nature documentary called Fierce Queens that has reportedly not generated the viewership to justify the cost.

“We are pleased with the performance of Fierce Queens,” the memo said. “The talent compensation was utterly inaccurate. We are grateful for Reese’s continued support of Quibi.”

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Quibi, which derives its name from the term “Quick Bites,” is hoping to build a business model predicated on $4.99 monthly subscriptions ($7.99 for no ads) to access short-form content that can be enjoyed in 10-minute increments. Some observers have called the model inherently flawed in the age of YouTube, as viewers looking for a quick video distraction on their phones during a subway commute or waiting in line will likely not be interested in devoting full attention to the kinds of professionally produced programming offered by Quibi that is more in line with long-form binge-watching.

The format took an additional hit by launching during a global pandemic that has seen potential customers staying at home and not putting themselves in a position where a 10-minute video distraction would be of any benefit to them.

In just under two months, the Quibi app has been downloaded 4.5 million times, translating to 1.6 million subscribers — though many of those are subject to a 90-day free trial and have not yet paid fees to the service. Katzenberg in early May told the New York Times that the pandemic was the primary reason subscriber numbers have been below projections.

Quibi’s early programming has been fueled by $1.75 billion in investment capital, with many of the shows having already been renewed for multiple seasons. Advertisers have been asking to renegotiate terms in light of the lower viewership data, according to Deadline.

In addition, Quibi is being sued by Eko over the rights to the Turnstyle technology that allows Quibi programming to be viewed in either horizontal or vertical mobile modes.

Katzenberg Blames COVID-19 for Quibi’s Slow Start

With 3.5 million app downloads (and 1.3 million active users) since launching on April 6, streaming video platform Quibi is not Disney+, Netflix, or even Acorn TV. And with billions of dollars in backing, the ambitious start-up from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman finds Katzenberg on the defensive.

In an interview with The New York Times, Katzenberg laments how the coronavirus pandemic and resulting nationwide home quarantines undermined the Quibi app’s mobile-centric target user.

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“I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus. Everything. But we own it,” Jeffrey Katzenberg told The Times.

Since its launch, Quibi (which stands for “quick bites”) offers original video content from big-name talent and directors no longer than 10 minutes in length. After debuting in the top three app downloads, the platform now ranks 125th, according to Sensor Tower.

“Is it the avalanche of people that we wanted and were going for out of launch? The answer is no. It’s not up to what we wanted. It’s not close to what we wanted,” Katzenberg said.

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Indeed, while attributing business failure to a pandemic seems easy, some observers contend Quibi’s mobile-only platform was doomed regardless of COVID-19.

“Quibi’s failure is due to its restrictive nature,” Danyaal Rashid, analyst with Global Thematic Research, said in a note. “The platform only supports mobile viewing and short-form video; the content library is weak compared to larger streamers; and at $7.99 (€9.05) a month [without ads], it is expensive – Disney+ is just $6.99 a month.”

Quibi has also been sued by Israeli tech company Eko, which claims the app’s technology enabling users to watch video either in vertical or horizontal position on their cell phone, is their invention.

“This is a case to stop the theft of Eko’s technology by Quibi, alleging a civil action for patent infringement under the patent laws of the United States, and misappropriation of trade secrets,” Eko alleged in a complaint filed March 10 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Quibi has filed a countersuit.

Meanwhile, Whitman remains more positive. In a May 11 interview with CNN Business, the former GOP California gubinatorial candidate said Quibi is a new brand with original content attempting to attract millions of eyeballs.

“We came to market with no library, no legacy product and we’re starting from scratch,” Whitman said. “I know how hard it is to gain people’s attention, particularly in a pandemic. But I feel really good about where we are, even though we’re five weeks old.”

Maybe, but Verizon felt equally confident about its mobile-centric entertainment app, go90, which launched in 2015 with original content from Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning short, Dear Basketball. It shuttered less than three years later with losses reaching $1 billion and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam retiring.

Quibi Tops 2.7 Million App Downloads

Quibi has added another 1 million app downloads to reach 2.7 million downloads since launching in North America on April 6. The $4.99 monthly ($7.99 without ads) streaming video service for mobile devices is the brainchild of DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP chief executive Meg Whitman.

While consumer interest pales in comparison to Disney+ and Netflix, the uptick in downloads comes as Quibi is offering 90 days of free service to subs signing up before April 30. The platform has distribution deals with Google and T-Mobile, and reportedly sold out its entire $150 million ad inventory for 2020.

In a interview with Reuters, Katzenberg said the platform would soon be accessible through streaming devices to the television. Currently, Quibi, which stands for “quick bites,” is limited to portable media devices. With millions of commuters quarantined in their homes due to the coronavirus, Katzenberg hopes to have TV access by next month.

“Under the circumstances, launching a new business into the tsunami of a pandemic, we actually have had a very, very good launch,” Katzenberg said in the interview.

Meg Whitman: 1.7 Million Quibi App Downloads in First Week

Quibi, the mobile-device-centric subscription streaming video platform from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP chief executive Meg Whitman, has topped 1.7 million app downloads in its first week of operation.

That’s according to Whitman, who appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” April 13 to talk about the latest over-the-top video service to join a crowded market.

Backed by a $1.75 billion war chest, Quibi, which launched on April 6 priced at $4.99 with ads; $7.99 without (and free 90-day trial if registered by April 30), is looking to attract mobile consumers with professionally-produced video content no longer than 10 minutes in length.

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While targeting a consumer on the go, Whitman said the app is migrating quickly to accommodate people quarantined in their homes.

“It’s one of the most successful launches of a completely new brand and completely new app,” Whitman said, adding that initial data suggests users are watching the app from 7 a.m. in the morning to 7 p.m. at night during “in-between moments.”

“We don’t think [shelter-in-place] hurt us, we’re delighted by the launch,” she said. The app, which features a steady stream of original shows refreshed weekly, has ranked among the top five across Google and Apple.

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Whitman said that unlike other media companies unable to produce content due to the pandemic, Quibi “banked” a lot of original content prior to launch.

“We were really good about getting a lot of our movies and chapters, unscripted and documentaries banked,” she said. “We have enough of that kind of content to show right through November.”

The executive agrees people increasingly faced with economic realities of job losses and belt tightening as the pandemic continues will have to reconsider discretionary spending on non-essential items.

“People will decide what is necessary and what they enjoy,” Whitman said. “We’ll see what happens. It’s impossible to predict. But there will be some tough roads ahead I’m sure.”

Asked whether there is a saturation of streaming services, Whitman said the competition revolves around long-form content for the TV. She expects consumers to pick up to three in-home SVOD services, a music service and Quibi.

“These are three different use cases. Three different kinds of content. And three time availabilities, whether you want to sit back in your couch and watch TV, or you’re out and about and want to be on your mobile. That’s the niche we think we fill.”

Quibi Generated 300,000 First-Day App Downloads

Quibi, the mobile-centric SVOD platform from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP chief executive Meg Whitman, generated about 300,000 downloads in North America during its first day of operations after launching April 6, according to new data from Sensor Tower.

Following months of buildup than encompassed seemingly nonstop industry buzz and backed by a $1.75 billion war chest, the $4.99 monthly ($7.99 without ads) mobile-only streaming platform’s launch day would appear underwhelming when compared to the launch of Disney’s SVOD platform, Disney+.

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Quibi generated just 7.5% of the 4 million app installs Disney+ recorded in the U.S. and Canada when it launched on Nov. 12, 2019. Disney said it recorded 10 million subscribers in the first 24 hours. HBO Now, in comparison, was installed approximately 45,000 times at its launch on April 7, 2015, five days ahead of the “Game of Thrones” season five premiere.

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Sensor Tower said Quibi’s release figures were bolstered by a lengthy preorder period, effectively front-loading a significant number of downloads into its launch day.

Quibi Launches Mobile SVOD Service

Quibi, the much-heralded mobile subscription streaming video app/service from DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP chief executive Meg Whitman, April 6 formally bowed service.

The platform, which is backed by a whopping $1.75 billion in third-party capital investment, aims to achieve what Verizon’s short-lived $1 billion go90 could not: A mobile-centric streaming entertainment service.

Quibi, which features a $4.99 monthly option with ads and a $7.99 plan with no ads, is launching with original “Hollywood-style” short-form content no longer than 10 minutes from filmmakers such as Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Lena Waithe and Catherine Hardwicke, among others.

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The launch slate features 50 programs, including “Chrissy’s Court” with supermodel Chrissy Teigen directing a small claims court, food and travel show, “Shape of Pasta,” dystopian thriller “Most Dangerous Game” with Liam Hemsworth; “Survive,” a plane crash drama starring Sophie Turner.

Quibi says it will update its content slate weekly with 25 new programs.

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T-Mobile Offering Customers Free Quibi Subscription

T-Mobile is offering customers a free subscription to short-content streaming service Quibi via the promotion “Quibi on Us” when the service launches April 6.

Quibi, led by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, delivers content designed specifically for smartphones. All Quibi videos are 10 minutes or less and feature such stars as Jennifer Lopez, Chrissy Teigen, Liam Hemsworth and Reese Witherspoon.

Via the exclusive deal with Quibi, T-Mobile customers with two or more voice lines at standard rates on Magenta and ONE plans with taxes and fees included — along with discounted First Responder, Military and Magenta Plus 55 plans — or small business customers with up to 12 lines, can get Quibi (regularly $4.99) added to their plan at no extra cost. Customers can sign up between now and July 7 to get “Quibi on Us” by going to mytmobile.com or the T-Mobile app for iOS or Android beginning April 6. Until April 3, T-Mobile customers can sign up in the T-Mobile Tuesdays app or online for access to three bonus episodes of Jennifer Lopez’ “Thanks a Million” April 6.

After a full year of “Quibi on Us” and “Netflix on Us,” a promotion that offers SVOD service Netflix at no cost, Un-carrier customers can choose to continue with one or the other.

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“T-Mobile customers have always been ahead of the curve — streaming more data, watching more mobile video — so when we first heard about Quibi, we knew our customers would love it,” said Mike Sievert, president and CEO of T-Mobile, in a statement. “And, with more of us staying home right now, Quibi’s never been more needed. It comes on the scene with a totally different experience, made for mobile, quick to watch and as entertaining as anything you’ve ever seen.”

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“Quibi and T-Mobile are a perfect match — we’re both changing our industries by giving our customers what they want in truly unique and innovative ways,” said Meg Whitman, CEO of Quibi, in a statement. “And, since Quibi is built for an optimal mobile experience, we chose T-Mobile as our exclusive wireless launch partner. With the only nationwide 5G network, T-Mobile was the obvious choice for our customers.”

More than 85% of mobile video streamed on T-Mobile’s network is short-form content, according to the company.