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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 Wall Street Journal reports. 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.

Why it matters: The company has struggled to hit its subscriber growth targets amid the global pandemic. Sources tell Axios Quibi was running out of cash.

Details: Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg called investors Wednesday to tell them he is shutting the service down, the Journal reports.

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

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 video to young users via mobile. Most videos were 7 to 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 is fixed via pre-sold ad agreements with 10 companies.
  • Ad partners include 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 chose 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, that it billed as revolutionary.

Jeffrey Katzenberg is an investor in Axios.

Go deeper

Newsletters are growing up and leaving the coop

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

After 10 months as a collection of newsletters created via Substack, the team behind the Everything Bundle is breaking out on its own with $600,000 in seed funding, its own content and newsletter software built in-house, and a refreshed brand as Every.

Why it matters: While services like Substack have made it easier than ever to start a personal newsletter and even generate income from paying subscribers, some authors are figuring out they need more than an internet connection and writing ideas to build out their business.

33 mins ago - Health

First known U.S. case of the Omicron variant identified in California

PhotoL Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The first known U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, according to the CDC.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.

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