The following entry is a record in the “Catalogue of Catastrophe” – a list of failed or troubled projects from around the world.
Quibi – USA
Project type : Video streaming service
Date : Dec 2020
Cost : $1B estimated loss (potentially some cost recovery through subsequent sale of assets)
A video-streaming start-up backed by Hollywood and Silicon Valley elites. With access to a vast amount of money and an open door to the world’s top talent, Quibi looked like it might be a success. Targeting people wanting to consume professionally made video content on the go, the brand name ‘Quibi’ was derived from the words ‘Quick’ and Bites’. Chunking content into smaller pieces ‘quibi videos’ were limited to a maximum of 10 minutes. To fit the format longer stories or materials were broken into sections which could be consumed piecemeal over time.
Designed solely for consumption on phones or tablets, ‘quibies’ were produced using Quibi’s signature ‘Turnstyle’ technology (videos would run full screen in either landscape or portrait views and would switch automatically as the user pivoted their device). Big name production companies were quick to sign up. Even before launch content developers such as the UK’s BBC, Canada’s CTV, US based CBS and other big brand producers jumped in. To add to the excitement Quibi engaged directly with top talent influences and A-list celebrities to star in and drive content production.
The big gamble was of course was whether or not there was room for another streaming service in among the plethora of incumbents. It’s a crowded market: Netflix, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Disney + and a myriad of other streaming service that provide professionally made content coexist with a wide variety of platforms that allow individuals to share their home brew (YouTube and Tik-Tok, etc). Compounding the risk was the narrow target Quibi was aiming for – People who wanted short videos that were only viewable on a phone / tablet and were professionally produced.
It was a gamble that didn’t pay off. Launched in April 2020 the efforts to make the app go viral failed and by Nov 2022 it was clear that the number of people willing to pay the $5 monthly subscription ($8 with no ads) was far short of the massive cost of producing the large volume of professional content envisaged. By Dec 2020 the plug was pulled and the concept joined the ever growing “app scrap” yard in the sky.
At the time management placed the blame on Covid. Clearly 2020 was a year that dramatically reshaped people’s lives. Did that undermine a valid product or was the concept simply too narrow a niche? We can’t rerun history so we shall never know, but despite Quibi’s own view that Covid was to blame analysts felt that the concept itself was the flaw.
Contributing factors as reported in the press:
Target market too narrow to support massive production and investment costs. Initial app lacked some of the basic functions users might expect (e.g. the ability to share or create memes). Unfulfilled hype leading to consumer disappointment (thereby suppressing viral transmission and app download). Failure to prototype the concept on a smaller scale before committing to full deployment.