There’s a new offering on Roku called Roku Originals, consisting of several shows that originally launched a year earlier on Quibi. And while very few people watched those shows on Quibi, many of them have found new life on the Roku platform, which offers more eyeballs than Quibi ever did.
What exactly was Quibi, and where did it go? That’s a long story, one that’s likely to be mentioned for decades when Hollywood’s most embarrassing failures are discussed.
What Was Quibi?
Quibi was first announced in 2018, under the name NewTV. The name was eventually changed to Quibi, which was short for “quick bites.” The twist was that, in order to catch the attention of younger people on the go, all the episodes of shows on Quibi would have a duration of 10 minutes or less. Also, it would only be available on mobile devices, at least at launch.
There were reasons to think Quibi had some promise. It raised $1.75 billion prior to its launch, and its founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg, had been a top Hollywood executive for years, first with Disney and then as a co-founder of DreamWorks. The company later brought in Meg Whitman, a former CEO of eBay and Hewlett-Packard, to serve as its chief executive.
Later, the company announced that it was getting into business with lots of big-name creators for original shows, including Kevin Hart, Chrissy Teigen, Sophie Turner, and the team behind 60 Minutes.
Quibi Had a Bumpy Launch
As Quibi was getting set for its launch in the spring of 2020, there were many indications that things weren’t going as planned. First, the public had very little understanding of what Quibi was or how it worked, and consensus soon emerged that the name was silly.
Then, ahead of the planned launch on April 6, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic hit, and with stay-at-home orders in place, it was clear that the on the go ethos Quibi was planning on wasn’t going to be in the cards for quite some time. But the company went ahead with the launch rather than delay it.
While certain shows, like Netflix’s Tiger King and The Queen’s Gambit, were massive hits during the time when most of America was stuck at home, nothing on Quibi became a word-of-mouth hit. This was partly because the Quibi software did not allow for screenshotting or screen recording, perfect for capturing memes.
The one viral moment from Quibi’s early months was from a show in which Rachel Brosnahan was obsessed with her golden arm, and even that was instructive of Quibi’s limitations. It was viral because people were making fun of it, and the spread of the video was only technologically possible because someone filmed a phone with a different phone.
Also hurting Quibi was that it had offered a 90-day free trial, one much longer than most of its rivals, so most of the subscribers it had weren’t even paying to use the service.
The Death of Quibi
There were other bad signs throughout Quibi’s lifetime. The company was sued by a software developer called Eko, who claimed that Quibi’s Turnstile screen technology had been lifted from them. And there were a couple of big magazine articles, including one in New York magazine, that were full of damning details.
Not only did it appear that Quibi’s viewership was extremely low, but there was dysfunction at the company. It was also reported that Katzenberg, who was the founder of a tech company, didn’t know much about tech, asking that his emails be printed out before he could read them.
On October 21, 2020, just six months after its launch, Quibi announced that it was shutting down. The actual shutdown of the service came in December.
Quibi Is Reborn on Roku
Quibi may be dead, but its programming has survived. In January 2021, Roku announced that it had acquired Quibi’s library of shows. The Quibi name would be retired, in favor of Roku Originals.
About 30 of the shows debuted on Quibi in May 2021. The following month, Deadline reported that the shows had been watched more in their first two weeks on Roku than they had in Quibi’s entire lifetime.
Kevin Hart’s series, Die Hart, became the first ex-Quibi show to be renewed by Roku.
Lessons of the Quibi Experience
What lessons can be gleaned from what happened with Quibi? Among them is that if you’re going to launch a tech company, you should do it with people in charge who know tech. Also, just because you capitalized to the tune of billions of dollars and are in business with big stars doesn’t mean you’re to be successful if your business plan isn’t in line with the ways that people watch shows.
Quibi was supposed to be the hottest new streaming service, but it crashed and burned. What happened?
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