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Smartphone-Focused Streaming Service Quibi Calls It Quits

By Danny Vena - Oct 22, 2020 at 3:04PM

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It turns out that doing streaming video well isn't as easy as it looks.

Just six months after going live, Quibi, the streaming video service co-founded by Hollywood icon Jeffrey Katzenberg, is going dark. The platform delivered 5- to 10-minute snippets of video specifically formatted for smartphone screens. The service sought to create a new category of short-form entertainment for the mobile era, but unfortunately, things didn't work out quite as planned. 

Quibi launched back in April with two tiers, an ad-supported plan for $4.99 per month, or an ad-free plan for $7.99. The service sought to differentiate itself from the competition by featuring programming that was filmed in both portrait and landscape, allowing viewers to choose their preference. Unfortunately, Quibi didn't provide a TV app while customers were trapped at home due to the pandemic, and it never gained traction.

Couple wearing wool socks huddled on the couch watching television or streaming video.

Image source: Getty Images.

The company faced a number of challenges in its short life, the most onerous of which was an ongoing legal battle with interactive video company eko regarding allegations it infringed on the company's patents and illegally obtained trade secrets from former employees.

The highflier had raised more than $1.75 billion in private equity from high-profile backers including Disney ( DIS -0.67% ), Comcast's ( CMCSA 0.54% ) NBCUniversal, and AT&T's ( T 1.78% ) WarnerMedia.

As a result of Katzenberg's pedigree, (he co-founded DreamWorks animation), Quibi also attracted big-name advertisers, including Walmart, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and PepsiCo, which committed to roughly $150 million in ad revenue even as the company prepared its debut.

A letter released by Katzenberg and co-founder Meg Whitman Wednesday lamented the failed venture, saying, "Quibi is not succeeding. Likely for one of two reasons: because the idea itself wasn't strong enough to justify a stand-alone streaming service or because of our timing. Unfortunately, we will never know but we suspect it's been a combination of the two." 

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