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Photo: Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Quibi, the mobile-only video subscription streaming service, is shutting down, the company announced Wednesday. The company said the decision was made to preserve shareholder equity.

Why it matters: Quibi had struggled to hit its subscriber growth targets amid the global pandemic. The app launched six months ago.

Details: Quibi said in a statement that it intended to wind down its business operations and initiate a process to sell its assets over the next few months.

  • "Following the Company’s wind down and satisfaction of all liabilities, the remaining funds will be returned to its investors as specified in the Company’s operating agreement," the statement said.
  • The company noted that its board made the decision to shutter after exploring several strategic and financial options. (Reports previously suggested that the company was considering a full sale but failed to find a buyer.)
  • Quibi says app subscribers will receive separate notifications regarding the final date of access to the platform.

The company blamed its woes on changes to the industry landscape and ongoing challenges. "[I]t was clear that the business would not be able to continue operating for the long-term on a standalone basis," the statement said.

By the numbers: The company raised a whopping $1.75 billion to get the app off the ground from Alibaba, as well as Hollywood behemoths like Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal and AT&T's WarnerMedia.

  • CEO Meg Whitman said in the statement that while the company had enough capital to continue operating for a significant period of time, "we made the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our talented colleagues with grace.”

Earlier on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Katzenberg would be informing the board of the move.

  • The company hired a restructuring firm to evaluate its options in recent weeks, per WSJ. One of the recommendations was to close operations.
  • The Information reported on Tuesday that strategy meetings have recently been canceled.

The big picture: The app, which launched in April, struggled to attract subscribers amid a streaming boom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Third-party analytics companies reported over the summer that the app only attracted a few million downloads. The company never officially confirmed any paid subscriber numbers, but Katzenberg told the New York Times in May that it saw 3.5 million downloads. Other analytics companies reported that Quibi struggled to convert most of its free trial subscribers to paid subscribers.
  • It also faced a heated patent lawsuit funded by a powerful activist investor over what it considered its flagship technology.
  • Quibi was created to provide short-form videos to young users via mobile. Most videos were 7–10 minutes in length, but shot both vertically and horizontally. In recent months, the company had been experimenting with putting some of that programming on TV screens.

Between the lines: The company's business model was contingent on having enough subscribers and eyeballs on its content to sell lucrative ads — a similar model to the video subscription streaming service Hulu.

  • Axios reported in March that the company sold out its first year in ads — $150 million in revenue — ahead of its April 6 launch. That number was fixed via pre-sold ad agreements with 10 companies.
  • Ad partners included big-name marketers like Progressive, Discover, General Mills, Procter & Gamble, AB InBev, Taco Bell, Pepsi, T-Mobile, Google and Walmart.
  • Prior to the service launching, Quibi CEO Meg Whitman told Axios in an interview that she expected the majority of subscribers to choose Quibi's ad-supported plan.

Our thought bubble: Quibi argued that months of stay-at-home lockdowns pushed consumers to TV streaming services and away from mobile-only video. But TikTok, a Chinese-owned short-form video app that's mobile-only, has gained massive traction in that same time, even while facing major regulatory headwinds.

  • Quibi's problem was that it raised a lot of money and couldn't live up to the hype. Its programming never produced any smash hits. And consumers never really embraced its "turnstyle" format, which it billed as revolutionary.

What's next: Whitman says the company will work to find a buyer for its assets in the next few months. “We continue to believe that there is an attractive market for premium, short-form content," she said.

Jeffrey Katzenberg is an investor in Axios.

Go deeper

Jan 27, 2021 - Technology

Facebook stock whipsaws amid ad targeting concerns

Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook's stock showed volatility in after-hours trading Wednesday, despite adding users and beating on top and bottom lines.

Why it matters: Investors seem spooked by proposed changes to user data collection by Apple that would impact Facebook's ad business, in addition to perennial threats of new federal privacy regulations.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

2 hours ago - World

At least 2 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Monday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. A New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told Axios over the phone that two people had been confirmed to have died in the disaster.