Report: Quibi explores possible sale of short-form streaming service

The logo of streaming service Quibi. (Logo: Quibi/Graphic: The Desk)
The logo of streaming service Quibi. (Logo: Quibi/Graphic: The Desk)

Short-form streaming service Quibi is exploring the idea of putting itself up for sale, one of several strategic options the company is weighing as its struggles to attract paying subscribers continues.

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported the company was exploring various ideas to stay afloat as its cash reserves start to dry up.

The service isn’t in danger of imminent closure, the Journal reported, and it has enough money in the bank to stay online for several more months. But it has missed subscriber targets since it launched earlier this year, and a partnership that allowed T-Mobile to offer Quibi subscriptions to some of its customers hasn’t generated much viewership, either.

Quibi launched as an experiment disguised as a full-fledged media company. Backed by industry veteran Jeffrey Katzenberg and helmed by tech titan Meg Whitman, the service quickly signed on known media producers, forging content agreements with Comcast’s NBC, ViacomCBS’s CBS News, the BBC and others, all of which agreed to produce short-form video content easily consumed on a smartphone.

Those agreements allowed Quibi to sign on big-name advertisers early on, including Walmart, PepsiCo and Anheuser Busch. But those advertisers asked for their up-front commitments to be spread out over a longer term when it became apparent that viewers weren’t attracted to paying for short-form content from a startup.

To make matters worse, Quibi encouraged content producers to develop short shows that people could watch while they were on the go — sitting on a bus or train, for example, or while on their lunch break. But the service launched in the middle of a global health pandemic that forced many American workers to stay at home — and when they did, they turned to the TV set.

Some might have wanted to watch Quibi while under quarantine, but the service’s mobile-only mission meant it launched without support for devices other than a phone. The company later backtracked, allowing viewers to “cast” video from their phones to a TV using a Google Chromecast device, with support promised for other devices in the future.

But by then, the damage was done. Faced with a cash reserve that is drying up and pressure from investors to do something, Quibi is now exploring ways to stay afloat, including a sale of its business to a third party or a merger with another company that would essentially allow Quibi to go public, the Journal said.

There’s no guarantee Quibi will actually go through with any of the options its exploring, the report noted, and any decision is subject to intense scrutiny and sign-offs from executives and investors.