Perhaps the biggest media crash in 2020 was the failure of the mobile streaming service Quibi.
Ultimately, people weren’t interested in watching drama and reality series, movies, and documentaries in 10-minute chunks on their phones, rather than in great shape on their TVs. (The COVID-19 pandemic causing the country to shut down and forcing people to stay at home, rather than checking their phones on the go certainly hasn’t helped matters.)
Despite offering a 90-day free trial of the service and its content, very few viewers have purchased a subscription. The lack of interest and income was too difficult to overcome and Quibi closed in just six months, an astonishing result for a company supported by plant executives Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman.
With the shutdown of Quibi, the question became where that content would go. Katzenberg tried to find a buyer for Quibi’s content, contacting Apple, WarnerMedia and Facebook, but these companies were also not interested.
However, this lineup has apparently found a new streaming home. According to The Wall Street Journal, Roku is in talks to acquire Quibi’s catalog that would provide the service with exclusive content that its service does not currently have. Viewers will now be able to watch these shows on their TVs and in great shape, rather than extremely short episodes.
Quibi shows included #FreeRayshawn (who actually won two Emmy Awards), a restart of The fugitive with Kiefer Sutherland, and Chrissy’s Court with model Chrissy Teigen.
The service also included content aimed at sports fans such as I promise, who chronicles the progress of the school LeBron James was launched in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Megan Rapinoe and Cam Newton were also among the athletes who hosted shows. You don’t have that, hosted by Lena Waithe, looked into sneaker culture. ESPN also produced a daily highlight show.
Yet perhaps the most intriguing sports content produced by Quibi was Blackballed, a documentary about the Los Angeles Clippers and the scandal of racist remarks by former team owner Donald Sterling.
The series revisited the story’s first five days, which ultimately resulted in Sterling’s lifetime ban from the NBA. Players on that Clippers team – including Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Matt Barnes – coach Doc Rivers, and pundits like Stephen A. Smith and Jemele Hill provide preview and commentary for the film.
Directed by Michael Jacobs (The High Five), Blackballed was originally presented in 12 episodes. But if it goes to Roku, viewers will be able to watch it as an hour-long or 90-minute documentary – which seems to be the preferred format for such a movie. (But maybe Jacobs and the producers of the project designed the rhythm of the series for episodes of less than 10 minutes.)
As the WSJ reports, Roku acquiring the Quibi catalog is not yet a done deal and could still collapse. Still, it certainly seems in the interests of both sides to come to an agreement. For Roku, this increases the value of its service, offering something exclusive beyond transportation services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, and HBO Max. And for Quibi, it recovers some of the failed investment and finds a new platform for its entertainment partners.