Oh Quibi, we hardly new ye. Quibi’s October shutdown came as no surprise to anyone, and since then things have been fairly quiet for the would-be content giant - it appears they are indeed going gently into that good night. But recent rumblings about the ~$750 M cash on hand they still have, from their original ~$1.8 B budget, and news of a sale of their content has resparked my interest in this little disaster.
Join me for what is probably the final part of the Quibi saga on ONTD, unless Jeffrey Katzenberg decides to start lighting money on fire in a new way. If you are new to this flop, be sure to check out parts 1, 2, and 3!
In the days leading up to Quibi’s closure, it was reported that employees were already scheduling “goodbye drinks” over Zoom , so the shut down probably didn’t come as a total surprise to those in Quibi HQ. What might have caught employees off guard, however, was the way founder Katzenberg tried to cheer them up - the Trolls soundtrack. According to reports, Katzenberg was “emotional” as he encouraged staff to listen to ‘Get Back Up Again’ sung by Anna Kendrick . In a fitting act of vertical integration, Trolls is of course a property of Katzenberg’s other baby, Dreamworks.
While it appears staff who worked for Quibi directly had a sense that the end was nigh, cast and crew of their numerous programs were caught off guard. “We were blindsided. We had just signed contracts and turned down other jobs to keep working on this show,” one crewmember told The Hollywood Reporter . A number of new shows were in production, and all summer Quibi had been issuing renewal notices for shows like Chrissy’s Court, Nikki Fre$h, and Gayme Show . One of the first shows to make a move to another content provider, HBO Max, was Lil Yachty’s Public Figures which had not yet started production at the time of Quibi’s shutdown .
Sadly, Steven Spielberg never got around to making his “After Dark” show which could only be viewed after sunset in your devices location, so I think we will never get to truly experience the height of gimmicky flopiness that Quibi could have been.
Quibi's Library Sells For...?
In early January it was reported that Roku, which has been trying to get into the original content game for a few years now, was reportedly close to finalizing a deal to have access to Quibi’s back catalogue of content . Roku has been in the streaming news quite a bit over the past six months, as it struggled to negotiate timely deals with Peacock and HBO Max (both of which are now available on the platform) . On January 8th, the sale of Quibi’s back catalogue was finalized, reportedly for less than $100 million dollars .
A gentle reminder that Katzenberg has previously bragged about Quibi content having a budget of “$100,000 a minute” , And while that figure is probably more for their scripted series and not their plentiful, cheaply-made content, their total production costs were reported at over one billion dollars  meaning Roku picked up the catalogue at a steep discount.
It is unclear how contracts will work when they move from Quibi to Roku as the deal goes through - you may remember from earlier in this series that show creators own their content after seven years and can repackage their shows into one piece (instead of ‘quibis’) and license it to other platforms after just two years . The news that broke today indicates Roku has bought the rights for one year, so who knows what will happen in 2022 (WTF was a Quibi part 5, maybe?). It’s also not known at this time if the deal would mean shows in production left in limbo in October would be brought back, but to me this seems unlikely.
So, About That Cash
Reportedly Quibi closed it’s doors with about ~$750 M in the bank, of the original ~$1.8 B raised  by people who should be paying our student loans. The Wall Street Journal reports that about ~$350 M of that will be returned to investors, with the rest going to closing out the business . Pour one out for the multi-billion dollar corporations that aren’t getting all of their money back.
Dunking on Quibi Because it's Fun
This section has no purpose, I just thought these tweets were funny.
Tom Conrad, Chief Product Officer at Quibi:
For the first time in 20 years, I’m confident that no one will ever ask me again what it was like to run engineering at https://t.co/jFeUFyrb9p— Tom Conrad (@tconrad) October 22, 2020
Quibi: hey just one more tweet?— Jai (@itsjaijames) January 8, 2021
The unpaid intern writing this: pic.twitter.com/PUJovHhazm
NYT really dropped the ball here by not making the headline "Quibi Will Not Be Buried With Its Golden Arm" https://t.co/mlIZqZwWkR— Tom Gara (@tomgara) January 4, 2021
it would be the icing on the cake to see quibi's content do gangbusters on roku's platform simply because people ✨know✨ what roku is— streamiverse 🌍➐ (@streamiverse) January 4, 2021
not too late for Hulu to option it for “A Huge Lunch With Molly Lambert” where I interview people as we eat until we puke— Molly Lambert 🦔 (@mollylambert) October 21, 2020
What Quibi Can Teach Us
I am no media expert. I don’t work in television production, marketing, tech - any of the fields that intersect with Quibi. But I, anyone, could have seen Quibi’s failure coming from miles away. Two Boomers at the head of a company making content aimed at Millenials on the go that fundamentally misunderstood how entertainment is consumed and time spent to the tune of nearly TWO BILLION DOLLARS is cause to start sharpening the metaphorical guillotines.
What is the lesson the world will take from Quibi? Probably nothing. Late last year CEO Meg Whitman’s name was floated around as a possibility for Biden’s cabinet , despite her terrible business record, the fact that she ran as a Republican for public office, and hadn’t voted in 28 years . While Katzenberg has been mostly staying out of the news, his holding company WndrCo still lists Quibi under their projects  so it clearly isn’t something he is ashamed of. Chances are that the industry-veteran, who blamed all of Quibi’s issues on the pandemic , will count unscathed and still worth nearly a billion dollars.
There is one huge upside to Quibi’s collapse, other than the hilarity, which is that their format was designed with union-busting as a direct consequence, as crew, writers, and production staff are paid at different rates for “web series” compared to television per many contracts . So what’s my own takeaway lesson on Quibi? UNIONIZE YOUR WORKPLACE.
Thank you all for joining me on this disastrous journey <3
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1 + me on photoshop, 2, 3, 4, 5 + me on photoshop, 6
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