Quibi’s spectacular flameout in 2020 drags on into the new year. After raising a $US1.75 ($2) billion war chest to launch the next big thing in on-the-go video, the streaming network only managed to keep the lights on for six months. Now the video vultures are circling over Quibi’s substantial catalogue of content, and Roku is reportedly manoeuvring to be the new destination for all those episodes of Murder House Flip you never got around to watching.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Roku is in “advanced talks” with the folks handling the liquidation of the Jeffrey Katzenberg-founded platform. The streaming device manufacturer is reportedly looking to expand the offerings on the Roku Channel. The channel has become an increasingly important factor in negotiations with media companies looking to place their apps on Roku’s devices. Unlike Apple, its most direct competitor, Roku doesn’t produce original content, and it’s struggled to gain traction with the Roku Channel.
Citing sources familiar with the negotiations, the Journal reports that the deal could still fall through, and the financial terms are still unclear. But Quibi supposedly has about $US750 ($975) million in cash on hand with $US350 ($455) million intended to be returned to investors and an unknown amount needed to cover employees’ severance and outstanding production agreements.
Acquiring content from companies like WarnerMedia and Comcast became a sticking point in recent negotiations surrounding the launch of the HBO Max and Peacock apps on Roku devices. Roku hopes that filling out its ad-supported channel with content it owns will give it more leverage in future talks.
While we don’t know what kind of cash Roku has in mind, the acquisition of Quibi’s bizarre lineup could function as a splashy marketing opportunity for its channel.
Quibi faced several difficulties in its short life. It launched in the middle of a pandemic that severely cut the amount of time that people spent commuting — a blow for proprietary video tech that was intended to be viewed on mobile devices. By the time it launched an app for viewers to watch Quibi’s shows on their TV, it was too late.
Morbid curiosity could drive people to check out the 10-minute episodes produced by the Fyre Fest of streaming services. But in the end, we’re essentially talking about a batch of high-production-value YouTube clips, and their long-term shelf life remains to be seen.