Quibi is in advanced talks to sell its content catalog to
according to people familiar with the matter, as the short-form streaming service winds down its operations following an unsuccessful run.
Quibi, which was founded by the movie mogul
raised $1.75 billion with an ambitious plan to develop high-end content for mobile phones. But the service, which launched in April, never gained traction and Quibi said in October that it was shutting down.
Roku, which sells the most popular streaming-media player in the U.S., is pushing aggressively into content with its own ad-supported app, the Roku Channel, which offers movies and shows produced by other companies. A deal with Quibi would give Roku a roster of exclusive programming.
Under the terms the companies have discussed, Roku would acquire rights to Quibi’s library, the people familiar with the matter said. Financial terms of the proposed deal couldn’t be learned. The deal talks could still fall apart.
Quibi’s shows, with episodes less than 10 minutes in length, feature such stars as Anna Kendrick, Liam Hemsworth and Sophie Turner. The shows include “Most Dangerous Game,” a thriller about human-hunting; “Dummy,” a series about a talking sex doll; and “Murder House Flip,” a fusion of home-improvement programming and true-crime shows.
Quibi has struck deals with producers that allow Quibi to exhibit their shows on its service for seven years. Some of the contracts suggest that the content can’t be aired on other platforms, some people familiar with the deal terms said. One person familiar with Roku’s view said the contract terms wouldn’t prevent the company from showing the content on its service.
A deal with Quibi would be an important step in Roku’s efforts to build a content base of its own. Viewership of Quibi’s high-production-value shows was stunted in part because the app went live just as the coronavirus pandemic was forcing millions of Americans to stay home—a setback for a service designed for people on the go.
Making these shows exclusively available on the Roku Channel, a free app offering movies and shows that Roku launched in 2017, would likely boost the appeal of an app that traditionally lets users stream content available elsewhere.
Streaming programmers license content for the Roku Channel as part of their deals to get their app carried on Roku’s platforms. These negotiations can be testy, as streaming services are typically reluctant to make any of their content available free in an app that competes with their own.
Content licensing for the Roku Channel proved a major sticking point in negotiations with
WarnerMedia to carry its HBO Max app. Roku and WarnerMedia finally struck a carriage deal in December, after months of hard-fought negotiations, in which WarnerMedia declined to license content for the free channel, a person familiar with the discussions said.
If media outlets provide enough compensation to Roku in other ways, such as ad or subscription money, the company relaxes its demands for Roku Channel programming, a Roku spokesman said.
NBCUniversal held out for months against sharing content for the Roku Channel as it negotiated to place its streaming app Peacock on Roku, according to a person familiar with the talks. Peacock was launched in July.
When the two sides reached a deal in September, NBCUniversal gave Roku a substantial amount of library programming, including “Magnum P.I.” and “Xena: Warrior Princess,” as well as some 45 films and many more titles for the coming months, according to one of the people close to the talks. Roku didn’t get rights to several of NBCUniversal’s best-known properties, such as “The Office” or “Parks and Recreation.”
Quibi shut down its service with about $750 million on hand, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. It expects to disburse about $350 million to its early investors. The company has earmarked funds for severance to employees and for outstanding production costs, the Journal reported.
Quibi is also fighting a legal battle with Eko, an interactive video technology company. Eko sued Quibi last year over a key technology feature, alleging patent infringement and theft of trade secrets. The suit is pending.
—Patience Haggin contributed to this article.
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