Quibi Holdings LLC is shutting down, according to people familiar with the matter, a crash landing for a once-highflying entertainment startup that attracted some of the biggest names in Hollywood and had looked to revolutionize how people consume entertainment.
In a letter posted to Medium, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman write:
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.
$2 billion. Flussshhh.
Quibi was always a bad idea. It’s sad that Katzenberg and Whitman either don’t know why or are pretending not to know why Quibi failed. All you had to do was spend an hour in the app to realize just how unappealing it was to use.
This wasn’t the result of poor timing. This was a monumental misjudgment of people’s attention spans on tiny screens. Squinting at a phone for thirty seconds is fine, but for several minutes? That’s an eternity and it’s just not going to happen. And it’s the way the videos were shot — like a feature film, where a TikTok is filmed, well, like a TikTok. Widescreen vs portrait. Sure, you could rotate the screen, but then you’re watching this cropped weird video that isn’t framed in an appealing way — it’s however the Quibi editor or algorithm (and I honestly don’t know which) decided to re-frame the shot.
The show I watched was filmed like a movie, with over the shoulder close ups and wide angles. There was dialogue and a full orchestra coming out of tiny speakers. It had an interesting premise, but I didn’t want to watch it standing in line (who stands in a ten minute line?) or wherever you’re supposed to watch short form video on a phone these days. This was clearly filmed in the mold of a feature film — it expected you to find a comfy seat, grab some pizza or snacks, and plan to stay awhile.
Also, the gimmick of turning the phone sideways to see something different just didn’t work. I don’t want to be your video editor or cinematographer while watching the film, but that’s what watching a Quibi video felt like. The decision to show me a wide angle or a close-up shouldn’t be made by the viewer.
And then the episode was over before I was hooked and I was thrust back to reality. Distracted by the intrusion of conscious thought, I went on to see what else the service had to offer. I never found anything else to watch but never went back to the show I’d started just a few minutes before. And once I closed the app, I never used it again.
Quibi felt like it was made by someone who didn’t quite understand the appeal of apps like TikTok and Snapchat and Instagram: it’s not just about consuming quick bites, it’s about creating and sharing your own quick bites, but Quibi wouldn’t let you do that, either (no clip sharing?!).
Quibi was old money, old Hollywood, old copyright: building old platforms that, on paper (tiny attention spans + tiny videos = huge profit!) seems exactly right to everybody but the audience.