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Quibi, the heavily funded and heavily doubted short-form streaming service founded by former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, officially threw in the towel Wednesday‚ a mere six months after its launch.
In its brief life, the company struggled to attract and keep viewers with its roster of content, even with $1.75 billion in funding. The company has reportedly sought to sell itself, but failed to find a buyer.
“We feel that we’ve exhausted all our options,” Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman wrote a Medium post. “As a result we have reluctantly come to the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our colleagues with grace. We want you to know we did not give up on this idea without a fight.”
The company will still need that fighting spirit: It won’t be an easy wind down. Of the $1.75 billion, some $350 million will be returned to investors, according to the Wall Street Journal.
You’ve probably already encountered the deluge of takes on Quibi’s remarkably quick burnout. Some assign blame to billionaire hubris, some to an overly competitive streaming ecosystem, to a lack of clear strategy (why watch Quibi, when you can watch YouTube for free?), to lackluster content, to too much funding, to a lack of experimentation, and, of course, to the pandemic. The reality probably lies somewhere in between all of the above.
As the story developed Wednesday, I was surprised to see my inbox full of streaming and video CEOs being offered up for comment on Quibi’s downfall—CEOs that weren’t of the Netflixs, Amazons, YouTubes, or Twitches of the world. On one hand, that can be read as opportunistic: Startups in the space are hoping for recognition by riding on the Quibi news cycle. On the other, it’s optimistic: Founders are still seeing opportunity to build in a space that has been locked in by the aforementioned giants.
The pandemic has led to a boom in video streaming. But is that enough to shift consumers to a plethora of options? I’m not so sure about that.
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