Quibi shuts down; bye bye

Quibi didn't really need to exist and now, it soon won't. We believe the subscription shakeout is long overdue and it will become much more difficult to attract and keep subscribers.

Kathleen Maher
Quibi is not gone yet. The service will go dark in December, so there's still time to sign up for the free trial. In its short life, the service racked up two Emmys for #FreeRayshawn starring Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones who both won awards for acting.


Quibi arrived in April 2020 just a few short months ago, back when we all climbed into our shelters for a long summer’s nap. The company was headed by moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, who are good at raising money and have worked well together, but they’re not really innovators. 

That train has literally left the station.  The idea of short-form news and entertainment channels was big around 2008 when the potential of smartphones made everyone at the Mobile World Conference all swoony—all those people with phones, all over the world, just standing around in line, or taking buses, and trains with nothing to do but look at their phones. We’re gonna be rich!!!

We think one of the impetuses for the service was the unpleasantness between Trump and China, which resulted in threats to ByteDance’s TikTok. Unfortunately, the Quibi content had none of the joy and spontaneity of TikTok, only the same hunger for eyeballs. What Quibi did have was a subscription price ($4.99 per month for the service with ads and $7.99 for ad-free) at a time when people are juggling multiple subscriptions and finding out they can live without a few—goodbye cable. What Quibi also had was plenty of competition, including giants YouTube and Vimeo.

The writing was on the wall for Quibi. The company planned their big debut bash for SXSW 2020, one of the first big shows to be forced to shut down. Then we’re all quarantined, so we were not standing around in lines if we can help it. We are staying home, playing games, and binging on Vera.

So, Quibi shut down. It didn’t make it a year, but the company had raised $1.8 billion in investment, and it had early revenue of about $150 million in ad sales (including PepsiCo, Walmart, and Anheuser Busch) before launch. What it didn’t have was subscription revenue to match the ad fees.

Poor little Quibi and poor little Meg and Jeff. Media commentators, including me, have piled on in response to the company’s French exit (meaning, movie coming to a subscription service near you, leaving the party without saying goodbye).

These days it feels like everyone wants a piece of us. Software, entertainment, shopping, video games have all turned to subscription. That’s been the trend for a decade now at least, but the bills are coming due and we’re having to make choices.

They can lock us up but they can’t make us pay.