Jeffrey Katzenberg admits Quibi's failure wasn't entirely COVID's fault

William Hughes
·2 min read

As far as historical counterfactuals go, “Would Quibi have actually worked in a world where the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t happen?” is roughly as important as “Without the Civil War, would Abraham Lincoln have ever discovered his love for stylish stovepipe hats?” Which is to say, it’s interesting, but god, there are better things to be worrying about, right?

Still, though: Company co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has now admitted that—contrary to what he said back in the spring—the service’s final collapse this week can’t be solely attributed to a global shutdown that gave a lot of people a lot of time to watch video content, if that was something they were interested in doing. As reported by The Wrap, Katzenberg gave an interview on CNBC today where he noted that he and co-founder Meg Whitman “believe in owning our miss” and that the whole Quibi idea may have been “less than perfect.”

For the unfamiliar—a number that’s only likely to grow exponentially once December rolls around, the service itself is shuttered, and this all disintegrates from our minds like so much chicken marsala fired out of a food cannon—Quibi built its whole brand around offering “quick bites” of entertainment, cutting movies into unwieldy chunks and forcing every show to run to an absolutely minimal attention span length in pursuit of streaming success.

In discussing the problems with the service, Katzenberg acknowledged that the lack of a free trial option for Quibi was probably a mistake, forcing people to jump into a fresh new Turnstyle world without really seeing what they were paying for first. (Quibi eventually started offering a 14-day trial in August, four months after it launched in April.) Admitting he’d been “flippant” when he blamed “everything” going wrong with the service on the pandemic back in May, Katzenberg acknowledged that other video companies, like Netflix and Disney+ have either weathered the storm, or even managed to thrive in the current environment.

Of course, all of this is external messaging. Katzenberg’s response when informing his employees of the company’s collapse was allegedly altogether weirder. According to The Wall Street Journal, his call to the company’s employees included the suggestion that they listen to Anna Kendrick’s Trolls song “Get Back Up Again” to help themselves feel better—presumably because it turns out that, Emmy wins and hopes for media dominance aside, Quibi’s particular feeling was absolutely one that could be stopped.