Thursday, January 14, 2021

Media: The Failure of QUIBI and its implications

Following the break up of the comedy duo Nichols and May, Elaine May pondered TV.  She had an idea for a TV series and a network was interested.  What they weren't interested in?  Her forty-five minute format.  They told her that a show was either thirty minutes or an hour.  That's not how she saw her concept and that was that. Elaine's a creative genius but, this time, we're gonna side with the suits.  TV viewers are creatures of habit.  And that's why QUIBI never made sense.



QUIBI, for those who blinked and missed it, was a streaming service -- "was" being the key word.  After raising $1.75 billion dollars -- that's billion, not million -- QUIBI debuted last April and folded shop last month.  Nine months.  That's how long it lasted.  Over a billion dollars and nine months to birth a failure.  Losers Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman oversaw the still birth.  


Katzneberg was a loser at DISNEY (where the Disney family didn't like him, celebrities loathed him and Michael Eisner couldn't forgive him for his constant press leaks that both attempted to give all credit for DISNEY successes to Katzenberg and attempted to publicly humiliate talent when a film flopped), he was a loser at DREAMWORKS (remember, he was supposed to move beyond animation -- he never did and then, finally, he was moved out) and he was a loser at QUIBI.  Meg Whitman?  Oversaw the growth of EBAY but also was in charge when EBAY repeatedly overextended itself in failed ventures (such as SKYPE) and became a toxic work environment.  Margaret would take those skills to Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign of 2008 and, again, of 2012.  She took her lack of skills over to her own failed 2010 campaign for governor of California where, despite spending  $144 million of her own money, she came in second or, as it's known in politics, she lost.  Chelene Nightingale came in third in that race while spending less than $100,000.  But let's all pretend Meg was a business genius and should be trusted with over a billion dollars to create a new company.  

In April, when QUIBI launched, the US already had many streaming services -- including NETFLIX, HULU, YOUTUBE TV, ROKU, TUBI, CRACKLE, PLUTO and DISNEY+ -- but a new streaming service could always be worthwhile . . . if it offered something of value.

What did QUIBI offer?

Nothing Americans were demanding.  QUIBI would offer a series of programs, Meg and Jeff decided, where content would last about ten minutes.  In other words, QUIBI thought Americans wanted to watch less TV -- begging the question whether or not Jeff and Meg ever left their billionaire bubble long enough to encounter any actual Americans?


They certainly never encountered any honesty.  The two lied that QUIBI would offer TV series.  But they usually didn't.  For example, the 11-'episode' TV 'series' FLIPPED?  No, not a TV series.  It was a movie, filmed to be a feature film.  Then QUIBI acquired it and broke it into eleven 'episodes.'  Are you surprised that people were bothered by watching a movie in eleven episodes?  Really?  They did offer some actual content intended to be a series from conception; however, it really wasn't what America was demanding.

Nor had the United States gone on record demanding a streaming service with new content that could only be watched on their cellphones.  If you missed it, HBO MAX struggled in its early days when its TV options did not include AMAZON FIRE or ROKU.  But QUIBI was going to succeed by streaming only on cellphones?

And this streaming service that no one was asking for?  It cost $5 per month if you could put up with ads.  (At ten minutes a segment, they also wanted to force you to watch ads?)  Or you could pay $8 a month to avoid ads.  

You won't be paying to watch the content in 2021.  We're not being cruel by implying it's all over now that QUIBI has shut down, we mean that, for approximately $100 million, THE ROKU CHANNEL -- a free streaming site -- which does offer premium content like a subscription to various cable channels -- will now stream the 75 or so offering in scripted programming, reality programming, etc that QUIBI offered featuring prominent names like Anna Kendrick, Idris Elba, Nichole Richie and Kevin Hart.


Imagine if that $1.75 billion had been used soley to create new programming?

QUIBI's failure is not just Jeff and Meg's failure, it's the entertainment industry's failure as well.  What idiots thought QUIBI could become the next big thing?

Equally true, QUIBI's failure should be causing other streaming services to ask questions.

Yes, DISNEY+ and PEACOCK should be asking -- and explaining -- why they launched without sufficient new content.  This month, DISNEY+ will finally start delivering -- start -- what they promised back in November of 2019 -- the MARVEL TV shows like WANDAVISION.  PEACOCK still has nothing exclusive other than the failure that was BRAVE NEW WORLD.

But we're not just talking about them.


It should be asking questions as well.  

They've built themselves around the concept of "binge TV."  And that happens by dumping a season's worth of episodes on one day, encouraging streamers to binge on as many episodes as they can watch in a row.  That works for new episodes.  What about old episodes?  Especially, what about old episodes of shows no longer in production?

HOUSE OF CARDS, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and GRACE AND FRANKIE will apparently be NETFLIX's longest running shows under NETFLIX's current plans.  HOUSE OF CARDS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK ceased production long ago and neither reached 100 episodes -- the number that had been a standard for syndication.  GRACE AND FRANKIE's final season will begin airing shortly (it also will not have reached 100 episodes).  More and more, NETFLIX has made clear, TV shows will last three seasons on average -- this is usually an eight episode season.

So what's going to make people want to stream the old library?  24 episodes of a show?  People are used to watching a show regularly -- FRIENDS, I LOVE LUCY,  LAW AND ORDER, etc.  But that's because there are so many episodes to watch that the show is fresh.  When you've just got 24 episodes, how often are you going to stream?

Not enough to be in the top ten clearly since no NETFLIX show makes the top ten streaming list on NETFLIX's site unless it has just posted new episodes.  In other words, it would appear that most subscribers are done with a NETFLIX show once is stops making new episodes.

QUIBI is a failure and it is now in the past.  That doesn't mean, however, that other streamers aren't able to look at the QUIBI experiment and learn and apply lessons to their own services.

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