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Six months after ambitious launch, Quibi is shutting down

By Benjamin Bullard
Quibi logo

Ending an ambitious, $2 billion move to push short-form content onto mobile devices, the much-buzzed web-based platform Quibi reportedly is shutting down only half a year into its existence.

Quibi, which debuted in April to a ton of fanfare (thanks to its high-powered pedigree as a creation of DreamWorks Animation founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman), revealed today that it will wind down its operation as a platform — though it has not specified a timeframe. In a statement reported by Variety, the platform cited a “changed industry landscape and ongoing challenges” in making the decision. Whitman noted the company will “wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our talented colleagues with grace.” Katzenberg added that the “world has changed dramatically since Quibi launched and our standalone business model is no longer viable.”

Named for an elision of "quick bites," Quibi has aggressively promoted its robust lineup of all-star content, which roped in creators from Steven Spielberg to Sam Raimi to produce short-form, bite-sized episodic entertainment aimed at mobile users on the go. As recently as this month, the platform was actively touting its most recent series, including the newest batch of episodes in Raimi’s 50 States of Fright anthology, as well as horror series like When the Streetlights Go On and The Expecting. Kevin Smith also hosted a NYCC panel to promote Quibi’s Marvel-versus-DC comics retrospective Slugfest, which he narrates. 

Amid a pandemic that’s rocked screen entertainment while disrupting society as a whole, rumblings of a possible Quibi sell-off made news back in September, when The Wall Street Journal reported that Katzenberg might be weighing options to sell the service. While a reported 4.5 million people downloaded the Quibi app in its two-month launch window, and 1.6 million signed up for either the $4.99 per-month ad-based subscription or its $7.99 ad-free counterpart, the service was unable to “grow significantly through the middle months of 2020, despite the pandemic,” reported Deadline.

Quibi’s novel idea of exclusively offering short-form entertainment via a subscription model certainly didn’t lack for star power. From its first announcement in 2018, the platform recruited some of the biggest names in movies and TV to help create new content and generate excitement among fans. Creators like Spielberg and Raimi were flanked by announcements of new Quibi productions from names like Guillermo del Toro, Ridley Scott, Jason Blum, and the Russo brothers (who produce Slugfest), while roping in on-screen talent like Liam Hemsworth, Naomi Watts, Kiefer Sutherland, Eric Andre, Demi Lovato, Bill Burr, and many more.

The fate of Quibi’s existing content remains up in the air as the company seeks a future home for its large lineup of genre-spanning programming, which even earned stars Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones the platform’s first Emmy Awards this year for their roles in #FreeRayshawn. “We continue to believe that there is an attractive market for premium, short-form content,” Whitman said in Quibi’s statement. “Over the coming months we will be working hard to find buyers for these valuable assets who can leverage them to their full potential.”

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