4 quick bites and obituaries on Quibi (RIP 2020-2020)


A new entry in the greatest collapses of startups ever

In memory of the death of Quibi, here’s a quick sendoff from four of our writers who came together to discuss what we can learn from Quibi’s amazing, instantaneous, billions-of-dollars failure.

Lucas Matney looks at what the potential was for Quibi and how it missed the mark in media. Danny Crichton discusses why billions of dollars in VC funding isn’t enough in competitive markets like video. Anthony Ha discusses the crazy context of Quibi and our interview with the company earlier this year. And Brian Heater looks at why constraints are not benefits in new products.

Lucas Matney: A deadpool company before it was even launched

There will be dozens of post-mortems on Quibi, but the fact is there were dozens of post-mortems written about Quibi before it even launched. The whole idea was, to be kind, audacious, though it was also clear to most people that weren’t personal friends with founder Jeffrey Katzenberg that it was doomed from the start.

Quibi’s death is an important moment for streaming, largely because it’s a pretty strong rebuke of services trying to one-up the Netflix model by solely focusing on high-dollar original content. I think Quibi made several mistakes, but its most pertinent ones can be tied to a lack of flexibility in vision.

The startup insisted that all of its titles were mobile-only, high-production value and relying on Hollywood star power when they probably could have succeeded by keeping a closer eye on what kind of quick-bite content was succeeding elsewhere. Snap has seen success with Discover after years of attempts, and there is space for a dedicated player here, but Katzenberg tried to level-up by throwing checks at his friends and not doing the hard work of scouting out rising trendsetters in the creator world.

There are other lessons here that apply to other streaming new-comers like Apple. Namely that creating a hit TV show is hard and buying a hit TV series is easier if you already have the money. Quibi and Apple TV+ both launched with plenty of new series and no back libraries of beloved legacy content for users to spend time digging into. There’s just so much good stuff out there already. Apple has shifted strategy here, but Quibi boxed itself in and probably couldn’t afford to play here once its error was made clear.

Quibi showcases how the streaming wars’ upending of Hollywood has probably eclipsed reason at this point. Players like Apple don’t belong here, and there’s just too much money pouring into original content that loosely fits the Hollywood mold.

Netflix stock is down 7% today after earnings yesterday showcased slowing growth. With HBO Max, Disney+, Peacock and Apple TV+ all launching in the last 12 months, the streaming market’s cup runneth over. And while I don’t think a Quibi death spells the end for innovation here, I think that the market is ready for some 2021 consolidation.



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