It’s A Halloween Miracle!
At long lost! Well, not that long. Ironically, Quibi lasted a relative Quibi’s worth of time in the streaming “television” market – and good riddance!
I’ve admonished Quibi in the past for being a horrible cynical cash grab by out of touch billionaires. I went into detail about how all of the decisions that went into Quibi stood in complete contrast to the very notion of artistic integrity. The thing is, I also am a generally hopeful person and made it clear that I don’t want ventures to fail in principle unless they really strike me as offensive – and Quibi did just that. There was no doubt in my mind that Quibi would die sooner rather than later, but I’m mostly just happy that I don’t have to see any of their annoying ads on every Twitter refresh or YouTube video.
My incredulity toward Quibi was not without merit. It was truly something my brain was unable to fathom. Am I the crazy one? Was it just so utterly-goddamn-obvious that this was a horrible miscalculation in every facet of its being, or was there some key component I was missing? Some magical piece of data that Katzenberg and Whitman (the weirdos who decided to convince other weirdos to spend money on this turd) had found that eluded I and everyone else staring blankly at their product? Was I gaslighted by a streaming service?? Alas, no. Quibi was just that stupid. To prove my point once and for all, I will point you to this chunk of writing from an article from Vulture back in July. It will answer just about every question you could have about Quibi and its failures.
https://www.vulture.com/2020/07/is-anyone-watching-quibi.htmlPeople have wondered why Katzenberg and Whitman, in their late and early 60s, respectively, and not very active on social media, would believe they have uniquely penetrating insight into the unacknowledged desires of young people. When I ask Whitman what TV shows she watches, she responds, “I’m not sure I’d classify myself as an entertainment enthusiast.” But any particular shows she likes? “Grant,” she offered. “On the History Channel. It’s about President Grant.”
Katzenberg is on his phone all the time, but he is also among the moguls of his generation who have their emails printed out (and vertically folded, for some reason) by an assistant. In enthusing about what a show could mean for Quibi, Katzenberg would repeatedly invoke the same handful of musty touchstones — America’s Funniest Home Videos, Siskel and Ebert, and Jane Fonda’s exercise tapes. When Gal Gadot came to the offices and delivered an impassioned speech about wanting to elevate the voices of girls and women, Katzenberg wondered aloud whether she might become the new Jane Fonda and do a workout series for Quibi. (“Apparently, her face fell,” says a person briefed on the meeting.)
Ho-ly-sh*t. No, as you’re probably asking, that isn’t satire stripped from an Onion piece. That’s absolutely real.
So it wasn’t just that everything related to Quibi felt like it was the product of out of touch billionaires who had no understanding of modern media or the entertainment preferences of the youth, that was exactly the case. At this point, the only surprising thing left is that there isn’t a report of about a million advisors, investors, and teenaged market research subjects telling Whitman and Katzenberg that this ill-conceived product had no legs to stand on nor any grounding in logic or reality.
In a Medium article written by the Quibi team announcing the good news, they state that they think Quibi’s failure could come down to two reasons – that their idea was garbage, that the pandemic ruined their chances for success, or a mixture of both. It’s a tough call, but due to the fact that their idea was, indeed, garbage, and that streaming services as a whole have experienced nothing short of massive growth during this pandemic, I think anyone with a working brain synapse or two can deduce the problem here.
The failing of Quibi is clear – they wanted to have their cake and eat it, too. They wanted to be like Netflix – a platform for media as well as the creator of the content itself. But, like every aspect to Quibi, they half-assed both sides of the coin. I know I hated on their weird gimmicks in my previous article, but for certain pieces of media it could have worked – but it needed to be from the bottom-up, not top-down. You generally shouldn’t take existing scripts and ideas and then morph them into what you want. It comes across as inorganic and cynical.
Maybe Quibi could sell its existing infrastructure to someone like Facebook, Netflix, YouTube, or hell, even TikTok, and some creators could make some really interesting stuff. Shoving weird ideas down our throats just isn’t appealing – even for free – without some amount of buildup and context.
So what’s next for Quibi? Well, all that the company appears to own is their software. The rights to virtually every product or “show” (remember, most of the “shows” on Quibi were just movies chopped up into 10 minute chunks) on the platform were set to revert to the original creators or producers within a few years of appearing on Quibi, so they have very little capital of their own. I’m sure we will see these Quibi “shows” as proper feature-length movies on other platforms in the future.
All-in-all, I’m happy to see something this cynical and devoid of any artistic integrity come in and out of our collective conscious like it’s Anthony Scaramucci. If handled better, maybe Quibi could have worked. Maybe it was twenty years ahead of its time and our kids will only be consuming content on whatever Quibi’s spiritual successor might be. That said, the story of Quibi, while as short as the shows featured on the platform, will certainly live on as a cautionary tale to other unassuming billionaires and TV moguls – let the art come first.