Jeffrey Katzenberg Says It’s ‘Not Fair’ to Blame Quibi’s Downfall on COVID-19

Mogul had previously said “everything” wrong with the app was due to the pandemic

Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, during an interview on CNBC on Thursday morning, said it’s “not fair” to blame the streaming app’s downfall on the coronavirus pandemic.

That was a change of tune since May, when Katzenberg told The New York Times he attributed “everything” that had gone wrong in Quibi’s first month to the pandemic. On Thursday, Katzenberg said that had been a “flippant” answer to what plagued the company, which decided to shut down on Wednesday, seven months after launching.

“Other companies have faced the challenge of COVID… [CEO] Meg [Whitman] and I believe in owning our miss,” Katzenberg said. “Simply blaming it on COVID, you know, I don’t think is fair or something either of us want to do.”

In particular, Netflix, which reported slightly underwhelming Q3 subscriber growth earlier this week, enjoyed a strong first half to 2020. The same went for Disney+, which had 60.5 million subscribers by early August — putting the service years ahead of its own schedule for subscriber growth.

Katzenberg said he was proud of the content Quibi put out, but that it wasn’t enough to overcome its issues. He pointed to the app being made for “on-the-go” viewing, which has dropped sharply during the pandemic, and the strategic mistake of asking viewers to pay Quibi before fully understanding what it was about. The app, which focused on 5-10 minute length shows, cost between $5-$8 per month.

“Somewhere between the idea being less than perfect, which we own, and the environment we found ourselves in is where the fail has come. What each of those are in that equation, I’m not sure any of us are ever going to know. But it didn’t work,” Katzenberg said.

To read why Quibi failed to catch on, click here.