Quibi, the short-form video streaming platform (and butt of many, many jokes), is shutting down, founders Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman have confirmed after the Wall Street Journal first reported the news on Wednesday. For many, it came as no surprise. Despite spending upward of $1.75 billion and securing contracts with A-list stars like Chrissy Teigen, Lena Waithe, and the Kardashians, the streaming service had struggled over its half-year run to attract an audience.
For some, the demise of the app was another opportunity to rag on the platform’s admittedly terrible name, which is short for “quick bites,” and its meme-worthy content, like a show about a woman so obsessed with her golden arm that she dies. But for Quibi’s (seemingly rare) sincere fans, the end of Quibi is nothing short of a tragedy. Slate spoke to one such fan, Christopher Byrd, a Houston-based IT consultant who had just recently joined the Quibi subreddit, to find out what drew him to a terminally unpopular service and what he thought about all those Quibi jokes. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Rachelle Hampton: When did you first start watching Quibi?
Christopher Byrd: I consider myself typically one of those early adopters, especially with things like this, where there’s not a huge investment upfront, so I was a Day One subscriber. Hopped on it probably that morning that it came out.
That was obviously when we didn’t know long quarantine was going to be. It had just started maybe two or three weeks prior to it. I was taking public transit, using my phone for at least an hour and a half, two hours a day. Also being kind of a young dad, that’s another contributor. They were advertising themselves as quick entertainment. That for me was very refreshing because everything else on all the competing services are like 45 minutes, hourlong shows, and I personally don’t have time to necessarily sit there in one sitting for 45 minutes or an hour to consume it. I might have to break that episode up over four or five days. And by then, you kind of lose that impactful story that they’re trying to provide you. When it’s a six-, seven-, eight-minute form of entertainment, you can just jump into an episode and then you can pick up again the next day or even later that day and it wouldn’t be that big of an issue.
I was like, “OK, this is better than just browsing YouTube. This is truly big money behind it where you have high quality, high budget shows at a very short form.”
What shows were you watching?
The one that stood out to me was Shape of Pasta, which was a show about eight, nine episodes long. It was very self-contained. There wasn’t going to be a Season 2. It was about this gentleman who had a strong passion for the Italian culture and pasta in general. He was out of L.A. and he traveled abroad to Italy and saw all of these different areas and regions in Italy. A lot of these pastas were getting passed down generation to generation, but as people move to cities and they leave these countryside villages, those things are being lost. I felt like it should definitely win awards.
Another one was Chrissy’s Court with Chrissy Teigen. Excellent show. You got to really see her personality come out. That was a show that I hope gets picked up for further seasons. It’s a hilarious take on the courts and all those things that people already have a draw to, but it was very humorous and I felt like it showed that she was down to earth.
Reno 911! is really good. I felt like it did a really good job tackling the whole police brutality conversation that’s going on in America. Yes, it’s a show from the cop perspective, but there was even a story this summer where they came out and delivered money to a bunch of organizations that are kind of trying to protect these rights and stand up for people. So that was really cool to hear. It’s a remake, I guess, from a show that’s been around for many, many years, but I felt like they really adapted to the 2020 mindset and kept the humor there, but also helping with the difficult conversations that people are trying to have there.
I feel like that’s the problem with this, because they didn’t get in front of a lot of eyes, people didn’t stick with it. And over the six months that it’s been around, they’ve been releasing consistently a lot of shows that I felt like they didn’t promote very well.
How often would you say that you used Quibi compared with other streaming platforms?
This one for me, I would use pretty much right up there with YouTube, because of the fact that it was shorter episodes and I could maybe have it on my phone while I’m working on the computer or something during my day.
I would say I probably watched it at least 20 minutes a day, realistically. Certainly, even more lately, because for October, they’ve been bringing in a lot of Halloween-specific shows. Versus some other content, maybe Hulu or something like that, I might only watch an hour or two a week.
What did you think of all the Quibi jokes?
People kind of tend to be pessimistic on social media. I feel like a lot of people were making comments without having actually tried the service. It’s kind of like a mob mentality where if somebody starts disliking an app it’s kind of this hip thing to do where everyone jumps on it. I feel like that’s what Quibi got. Early on, people were making fun of it. I don’t know whether it’s how they presented themselves, but I think a lot of it was, “It’s the new kid on the block, and they have no chance.”
That’s why restaurants fail. That’s why so many things fail because it’s not because it’s a bad product, but more so one person, or maybe even it’s an influencer, whomever is like, “Well, there’s no way that application or service is going to survive, so why should anyone give it a chance?” And then they kind of hop on it because they get all the likes and stuff.
Too often, even in the subreddit on Quibi, you see folks just talking about that, “It’s a bad service,” but they don’t really provide a reason for why they don’t like it. They’re just like, “They didn’t have a TV app,” and it’s like, “We all live on our phones, and I bet these people do, especially if they’re on Reddit.” They’re watching stuff on their phone, whether it’s TikTok or whatnot.
What was your reaction when you heard that Quibi was shutting down?
I’m disappointed that it’s closing down, but I understand it. It’s not a good thing if you can spend so much money and you don’t see any return on investment. Especially when you saw big names like Peacock or Disney, they launch and they get millions and millions of subscribers right away. Probably because they have a lot of name brands already behind them.
But this service had everything big on it, and that it’s still failing is really discouraging. It’s like, “Maybe I shouldn’t hop on new services.” Because you do feel like you invest all that time, you want to see it thrive and keep going so that you get to see those Season 2s, or you get to see where these people’s creativity takes them. But now I won’t get to see that, and that is pretty discouraging and pretty sad overall. I think for folks like me, who don’t always have time to sit there for an hour to watch a show, this allowed me to feel like I was getting to consume those shows.