Quibi launches Apple TV app just in time to shut down [Updated]

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Power players Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman apparently couldn't save Quibi.
Power players Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman apparently couldn't save Quibi.
Photo: Fortune Brainstorm Tech/Flickr CC

Quibi, the mobile-first streaming video service that launched at the worst possible time, is shutting down, according to The Wall Street Journal. The report came Wednesday, just days after Quibi launched an Apple TV app so subscribers could enjoy its bite-size videos on the big screen.

Citing people familiar with Quibi’s operations, the Journal reported:

On Wednesday, founder Jeffrey Katzenberg called Quibi investors to tell them he is shutting the service down, some of the people said.

Mr. Katzenberg and Chief Executive Meg Whitman decided to shut down the company in an effort to return as much capital to investors as possible instead of trying to prolong the life of the company and risk losing more money, according to the people familiar with the matter.

Employees will be laid off and will be paid a severance, the people said, and the company will explore selling the rights to some of its content to other media and technology firms.

In a post on Medium, Katzenberg and Whitman confirmed the shutdown Wednesday afternoon.

“We started with the idea to create the next generation of storytelling and because of you, we were able to create and deliver the best version of what we imagined Quibi to be,” they wrote. “So it is with an incredibly heavy heart that today we are announcing that we are winding down the business and looking to sell its content and technology assets.

Quibi shutdown

Plenty of people would say that 2020 did not turned out quite how they hoped it would. The Hollywood and Silicon Valley power players behind Quibi would almost certainly be among them.

Quibi, which makes short, episodic shows that are perfect for watching on your iPhone while commuting, launched in April at a time when almost nobody was commuting due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Six months down the line, Quibi revised its mobile-only ambitions launched a tvOS app alongside apps for Android TV and Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick.

Quibi’s journey to Apple TV

Quibi, which was co-founded by Hollywood producer Katzenberg and ex-Hewlett Packard CEO Whitman, attracted plenty of A-list talent. These included the likes of Kevin Hart, Chrissy Teigen and Zac Efron. In its first year, Quibi reportedly spent more than $1 billion on some 175 shows, with episodes lasting between five and 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, from the very start, Quibi was hit with reports that it wasn’t reaching enough users. In a July interview with The New York Times, Katzenberg said, “I attribute everything that has gone wrong to coronavirus.” He also said that app downloads had not been “close to what we wanted.”

The service reportedly gained around half a million subscribers at $5 per month (with a 14-day-free trial).

In October, a report surfaced saying Quibi’s creators tried to sell the service. According to The Information, Apple was among the potential acquirers contacted. However, Apple execs rejected the offer.

It’s hard not to feel for Quibi. The service has some fun shows, but it launched at a time when more streaming services than ever were launching. Add to that the disastrous timing of launching a mobile-first service at a time when everyone’s staying home and … well, it’s a tough situation to be in.

This post was updated to include news of Quibi’s shutdown.