The Hustle

5 of the biggest media flops ever

Media fails


October 23, 2020

As you probably know by now, Quibi — the short-lived short video app (sorry) — is shutting down after 6 months.

A Now, according to Axios, the company plans to return some of the $1.75B it raised back to shareholders, with 20 cents on the dollar a worst-case scenario.

We’re not here to dunk on Jeffrey Katzenberg & Co., though.

Rather, we’d like to put Quibi in context. Here is a very unscientific list of the top 5 media flops ever:

  1. The movie flop that took down a studio. Fresh off winning Best Director for the 1978 Vietnam War movie The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino released a movie that is synonymous with film flops: Heaven’s Gate. The 1980 Western earned $3.5m against a budget of $44m, bankrupting United Artists in the process.
  2. Europeans don’t give AF about Disneyland: Disneyland Paris opened in, um, Paris in 1992. The park was not originally owned by its namesake but — after decades of middling attendance and an onerous debt burden — Disney stepped in to take majority ownership in 2017. COVID-19 has hampered turnaround plans.
  3. The most expensive flop ever: According to Digital Spy, the 2017 fantasy film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword lost $150m on a production budget of $175m. Honestly, we have no idea how this flopped… David frickin’ Beckham makes an appearance.
  4. The worst media M&A ever: In January 2000, AOL announced it was buying Time Warner for $182B. The combined $350B behemoth was to be the perfect internet marriage of distribution (AOL) and content (Time Warner). The new co ended up losing ~$100B in 2002. Verizon bought AOLfor $4.4B in 2015.
  5. The business that tried (and failed) to beat math: MoviePass.

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