Last week, company founders announced that the mobile-exclusive streaming service Quibi will shut down in December. The service launched in April, meaning the service had a shorter life span than the Covid-19 pandemic. Quibi is yet another business which struggled during the economic recession of 2020. Although, Quibi certainly wasn’t a local business with little funding. The service was not only co-founded by entertainment industry titans, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, but also had nearly $2 billion in investor funding, according to The Verge.
Quibi was an app that featured original series, with weekly new episodes of the varied programs. The ability to consistently release content is not only due to high funds and the app’s pre-production, but also due to each episode lasting 10 minutes or less. The gimmick was the service’s exclusivity to cell phones and tablets, intended as an outlet for short, easily-consumable shows while away from home. Quibi subscribers either paid $5 monthly for base membership, or $8 monthly to watch without advertisements.
I vividly remember the last media I saw from Quibi; an advertisement for an exclusive show titled “Dummy.” The show starred Anna Kendrick as Cody, a young adult struggling to maintain a relationship. Somehow, Cody’s boyfriend’s sex doll comes to life, attempting bond with Cody. The series then follows Cody and the doll driving together around the country.
As a fan of bizarre media, I cannot say there isn’t an audience for this strange type of content. With billions in funding to establish a legitimate service, however, it’s ludicrous that the only advertised Quibi content I remember is about Anna Kendrick and a talking sex doll. That, and the advertisements with celebrities awkwardly using phrases such as, “I’ll be done in a ‘Quibi.’”
To be fair, I myself didn’t subscribe to Quibi’s services, only monitoring advertisements to see if any new content on the service interested me. In addition, I prefer watching feature films to episodic series. Understanding that I may not have been Quibi’s intended audience, I’m still confused who exactly is this audience: who wants to pay to watch unmemorable content in an inconvenient manner?
To clarify the app’s inconvenience: Quibi truly is only accessible on handheld devices: the service cannot be streamed on televisions, consoles, nor laptops. Even if there’s content that one would appreciate, it would all be restricted on limited devices. Plus, if you enjoy watching shows with your friends, it’d be difficult if the shows only play on such small screens. I’ve read this strict exclusivity is so shows can use both landscape and portrait mode based on the orientation of the viewer’s device. Ironically, this adjustment for convenience leads to a string of glaring inconveniences.
Quibi attempted to capitalize on a surplused market, as other quick, assessable content-based apps already thrive. For example, YouTube gives access to billions of hours worth of content on a mobile device while away, and still gives the option of viewing on home devices. YouTube also offers much of their content for free. Other free apps such as Twitter and Instagram also provide quick entertainment for no charge. Even other paid services, such as Netflix, already allow you to watch renowned shows and films on your mobile device.
Some may criticize my insults towards Quibi’s shows, despite never trying the service myself. Yet, I’d wager none of this article’s readers have heard any of their peers even mentioning a show from Quibi. Also, the fact that Quibi lasted less than a year, regardless of its outrageous funding and celebrity support, doesn’t show promise in the shows’ quality.
From concept alone, Quibi seems impossible to make successful in the current entertainment ecosystem. Although, after reading Katzenberg’s response to laid-off Quibi employees, perhaps poor management was also a massive obstacle for the service. The Wall Street Journal released this statement: “During a video call with employees Wednesday, an emotional Mr. Katzenberg suggested Quibi staffers listen to the song ‘Get Back Up Again,’ sung by actress Anna Kendrick in the animated film ‘Trolls,’ to buoy their spirit.” Kendrick will now be associated with two brutal Quibi missteps: the creation of “Dummy,” and Katzenburg telling unemployed adults to feel better by listening to a children’s song. Hopefully Kendrick and the many laid-off Quibi employees will continue to find substantial employment during the cruel pandemic.