One of every three adults in the United States is currently contemplating to cancel their cable TV subscription. On top of that, over 30 million people have cut the cord from 2017 to 2022 alone.
Meanwhile, streaming platforms like Netflix or Disney+ have now amassed hundreds of millions of loyal and paying subscribers.
Even old-school media conglomerates such as NBC have since launched platforms of their own. It is safe to say that linear cable television as we know it is a dying industry.
However, where there’s money to be made, failure isn’t too far off, either. Throughout the past decade, billions have been wasted in hopes of creating the next Netflix.
In the coming sections, we will highlight 15 of the biggest streaming services that failed to take off – and the reasons why.
The list itself is sorted by the year each individual company was founded. Buckle up for a ride down memory lane!
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California, United States Founder(s): Hugh Hancock Year Founded: 2000 Year Closed: 2019
Machinima, a combination of the words machine and cinema, was a former content creation network focused on publishing gaming-related videos. Its content would primarily be accessed via YouTube but also its own sites as well as associated streaming services.
YouTube essentially became the firm’s key growth engine. During its peak in the mid-2010s, Machinima videos recorded billions of views. The network even created videos in partnership with media brands such as Warner Bros. or Capcom.
Warner Bros., after previously investing in Machinima, ultimately acquired the company for $100 million in November 2016. Unfortunately, three years later and without any prior announcement, Warner Bros. division Otter Media deleted all videos on Machinima’s YouTube channel.
Machinima was ultimately shut down because its owners AT&T and WarnerMedia wanted to consolidate some of their digital assets.
- Check out the founding story and detailed reason for why Machinima failed here.
Headquarters: San Francisco, California, United States Founder(s): Justin Kan, Emmett Shear, Michael Seibel, Kyle Vogt Year Founded: 2007 Year Closed: 2014
Justin.tv was an online video streaming platform that allowed anyone to broadcast live videos of themselves. Its namesake founder Justin Kan would livestream his day 24/7 while allowing users to comment on any occurrence.
The team eventually pivoted away from livecasting towards allowing any users on the platform to start a livestream. However, due to ungodly amounts of copyright infringements, the team always had to play catch-up.
Meanwhile, they experimented with launching ancillary products as well. One of those eventually turned into Twitch, which they launched in 2011. Three years later, Amazon acquired Twitch for $970 million.
Justin.tv was shut down a month after the purchase (09/2014) because its founders agreed to sunset the service to not compete with Twitch and ultimately save cost (by not running two streaming platforms at the same time).
- Check out the founding story and detailed reason for why Justin.tv was shut down here.
Headquarters: New York City, New York, United States Founder(s): Dom Hofmann, Rus Yusupov, Colin Kroll Year Founded: 2012 Year Closed: 2017
Vine was a social media platform that allowed users to upload and consume short-form videos in a loop format. Twitter scooped up Vine for $30 million six months before its launch in January 2013.
The app became the talk of the town during the mid-2010s, amassing over 100 million monthly active users during its peak. Some of its former creators, such as King Bach, have since gone on to appear in movies and TV shows.
Unfortunately, by mid-2016, most of its creators as well as the advertisers on its platform had already moved on to competing platforms like YouTube. To make matters worse, Byte Dance’s TikTok has since proven that there is a clear demand for short-form videos made by everyday people.
Vine ultimately shut down because it failed to support its content creators, a lack of monetization and advertising options, personnel turnover, and due to various financial issues at parent company Twitter.
- Check out the founding story and reason for why Vine was shut down here.
Headquarters: Toronto, Canada Founder(s): Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications Year Founded: 2014 Year Closed: 2016
Shomi, pronounced show me”, was an on-demand video streaming service operated by two of Canada’s biggest media conglomerates. It was initially launched to become a homegrown competitor to Netflix.
The content on the platform was primarily licensed from other companies. When Shomi launched, it offered over 12,000 hours of streamable content from shows such as American Horror Story or Vikings.
While the owners never publicized paying user numbers, many were likely subscribed because the service was offered as part of their cable packages. The owners were also criticized because Rogers and Shaw initially only offered Shomi to their cable or internet customers.
Shomi was shut down because the cost of running the business was simply too great for its owners to bear. Part owner Shaw had previously sold its television channels to Corus Entertainment for $2.65 billion, which likely increased content licensing costs.
5. Popcorn Time
Headquarters: worldwide Founder(s): anonymous Year Founded: 2014 Year Closed: still active
Popcorn Time is an open-source software that allows anyone to download and stream media files such as videos. The platform utilizes torrenting technology to download the content, which is then streamed within its app.
The usage of Popcorn Time, due to its reliance on torrenting technology, is therefore prohibited in many jurisdictions across the globe – and the reason why many of its original founders remain anonymous to this date.
While the original founders shut down the service just weeks after launching it, new versions of Popcorn Time keep popping up to this day.
- Check out the founding story and reason for why Popcorn Time was shut down here.
Headquarters: Seattle, Washington, United States Founder(s): Matthew Salsamendi, James Boehm Year Founded: 2014 Year Closed: 2020
Mixer, initially launched as Beam, was a live streaming platform that enabled content creators to broadcast themselves in video format. The two founders, who were 18 and 20 when they launched Beam in January 2016, had previously run a hosting company for Minecraft servers.
Microsoft, just 8 months after Beam was unveiled to the public, acquired the startup for an undisclosed sum. The software giant rebranded it into Mixer 9 months later to compete against the likes of Twitch (which is owned by Amazon) and YouTube Gaming.
Over the coming years, Microsoft invested substantial resources into the platform. In August 2019, for instance, it signed world-renowned streamer Ninja to an exclusive deal worth $30 million. Mixer’s market share, despite those investments, remained flat. The app was ultimately shut down in July 2020.
Mixer shut down because of immense competition, high cost of maintaining the product, lack of community building, employee turnover, technical issues, as well as Microsoft shifting its focus towards other products.
- Check out the founding story and detailed reason for why Mixer failed here.
Headquarters: Tokyo, Japan Founder(s): Sony Year Founded: 2015 Year Closed: 2020
Sony’s PlayStation Vue was one of the first services that offered live TV over the internet. When it launched in March 2015, viewers could already access over 85 channels such as ABC or CNN.
Initially available on the PlayStation only, Sony eventually cut distribution deals with the likes of Roku, Google’s Chromecast, and Apple TV. At its peak, Vue managed to amass over 800,000 paying subscribers according to research firm eMarketer.
With a minimum monthly price tag of $49.99, it certainly wasn’t cheap to access. It also didn’t help that Vue was exclusively available to PlayStation owners for the longest time, which severely limited distribution.
Sony luckily named the reason why it shut down Vue. “Unfortunately, the highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected. Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business,” the statement read.
Headquarters: Singapore Founder(s): Krishnan Rajagopalan Year Founded: 2015 Year Closed: 2020
Hooq was launched with the goal of becoming the “Netflix for Southeast Asia” by producing locally relevant content. Meanwhile, it also licensed content from the likes of Sony Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment.
The platform managed to amass over 80 million paying subscribers across six markets in Asia. India, due to its distribution partnership with Disney’s Hotstar was the firm’s biggest market.
Hooq was majority-owned by mobile operator Singtel, which alongside other investors had invested nearly $130 million into the business. However, in 2019 alone, Hooq’s losses were equal to $62.5 million, up from the $56.6 million it lost in the previous year.
Hooq was ultimately shut down because it was expected to lose money for years to come – an endeavor its owner Singtel wasn’t willing to see through.
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia, United States Founder(s): Turner Classic Movies (TCM), Warner Bros. Digital Networks Year Founded: 2016 Year Closed: 2018
FilmStruck was a streaming service aimed at cinephiles and featured hundreds of classics, indies, as well as foreign movies. A premium version also granted viewers access to 1,200 additional titles from the Criterion Channel.
The platform’s monthly price tag stood at $10.99 per month with access to the Criterion Collection library and $6.99 monthly without it. Turner’s thesis was to cater to a niche audience that wanted to consume (classic) movies instead of lengthy TV shows, which platforms like Netflix doubled down on (while removing more and more movies from its library).
FilmStruck was shut down because AT&T, which merged with WarnerMedia back in 2018, wanted to streamline its operations by shutting down more niche-oriented businesses. Turner’s and Warner’s other streaming platforms, namely DramaFever and Super Deluxe, suffered similar fates.
Headquarters: New York City, New York, United States Founder(s): NBCUniversal Year Founded: 2016 Year Closed: 2017
Seeso was a streaming platform focused on comedy content. It both licensed content from other networks and developed its own original shows.
Costing $3.99 per month, the platform created original series such as My Brother and Me, and Hidden America with Jonah Ray while featuring some of America’s most-renowned comics. Furthermore, the service licensed content such as Parks and Recreation or Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
At its peak, Seeso counted 300,000 paying subscribers but also cost NBCU about $60 million across a three-year span.
The service was shut down because it would’ve required NBC to invest billions of dollars to compete against the likes of Netflix – something the parent company wasn’t willing to commit to. Some of its originally produced content was later sold to platforms like Pluto TV.
11. HQ Trivia
Headquarters: New York City, New York, United States Founder(s): Colin Kroll, Rus Yusupov Year Founded: 2017 Year Closed: still active
HQ Trivia is a live game show app that enables users to compete against each other and win real as well as virtual cash prizes. Users compete against thousands of others by answering 12 questions. The last ones standing then split up the prize equally among each other.
Founders Kroll and Yusupov had previously started and sold the short-form video app Vine, which we just mentioned earlier. HQ Trivia, boosted by the charm of former host Scott Rogowsky, amassed close to 1 million concurrent players during its peak.
Unfortunately, that peak didn’t last too long. Not only did beloved host Rogowsky eventually resign but the company previously lost its founder and then-CEO Colin Kroll to a drug overdose.
HQ Trivia failed because it couldn’t keep its game engaging, due to intense competition, various technical issues, as well as issues with the founder’s leadership style.
- Check out the founding story and detailed reason for why HQ Trivia failed here.
Headquarters: New York City, New York, United States Founder(s): David Goodfriend Year Founded: 2018 Year Closed: 2021
Locast was set up as a non-profit organization that displayed local broadcast signals from stations such as ABC over the internet. Users, despite its non-profit status, were required to pay $5 per month to access the service but later switched to a donation-based model (to comply with its non-profit status).
Washington-based lawyer Goodfriend launched the service by mounting an antenna on the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Manhattan to intercept the required signals. The service eventually expanded into 35 states.
The Walt Disney Company, CBS Corporation, NBCUniversal, and Fox Corporation filed a combined lawsuit against Locast back in the summer of 2019.
Two years later, the judge ruled in favor of the media conglomerates, stating that the money Locast derived was far greater than what it needed to operate, thus classifying it as a for-profit enterprise. Not only was Goodfriend forced to shut down the service effective immediately but Locast’s Sports Fans Coalition also had to pay $32 million in fines.
Headquarters: Los Angeles, California, United States Founder(s): Jeffrey Katzenberg, Meg Whitman Year Founded: 2018 Year Closed: 2020
Quibi, short for ‘quick bites’, was an on-demand streaming application that focused on short-form video content. Many episodes were filmed in mobile format and only around 10 minutes long.
The founders, both highly seasoned and extremely successful executives, raised $1.8 billion in funding to get the service off the ground. Not only were they able to snatch away execs from competing platforms like Netflix but also attract world-renowned talents such as Anna Kendrick, Laurence Fishburne, and Justin Timberlake.
In spite of the billions its founders attracted, Quibi only lasted for about 6 months. Months later, they sold around 75 of its shows to streaming device maker Roku for about $100 million.
Quibi failed because it burned through too much cash, due to poor content, high prices, missing crucial features, personal issues between the founders, as well as various legal troubles.
- Check out the founding story and detailed reason for why Quibi failed here.
Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington, United States Founder(s): T-Mobile Year Founded: 2020 Year Closed: 2021
TVision initially started out as an Internet Provider TV (or IPTV) service after T-Mobile acquired Layer3 back in 2017. However, in October 2020, the mobile carrier rebranded it into a traditional over-the-top streaming service.
The service offered a variety of different products. For $50 a month, viewers could get access to dozens of channels such as ABC, ESPN, CNN, TNT, and many more (via TVision Live). TVision Vibe, which only costed $10 per month, allowed people to watch 30 live channels from AMC, Discovery, and Viacom. Lastly, TVision Channels offered standalone subscriptions for services such as Showtime ($10.99/month) or Starz ($8.99 per month).
However, just five months after first unveiling the triumvirate, T-Mobile already announced the shutdown of TVision. Instead, its live channels were ported over to YouTube TV at a discounted rate. The two companies had previously announced a partnership in which T-Mobile would promote Google-owned mobile products such as the Pixel.
Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia, United States Founder(s): CNN Year Founded: 2021 Year Closed: 2022
CNN+ (spelled CNN Plus) was a premium streaming service that could be accessed by paying a subscription fee. Viewers could access dozens of original TV shows, documentaries, and movies. CNN even created its own shows for the platform such as No Mercy / No Malice with Scott Galloway.
The news network spent over $300 million to get the streaming platform, which launched on March 29th, 2022, developed. CNN+ lasted all but a month. Discovery had previously completed its merger with Warner Bros. and just got access to its performance data.
CNN+ failed because of low subscriber numbers, extensive cost projections, a change in leadership, competition, and a shift in strategy at its new owner Warner Bros. Discovery.
- Check out the founding story and detailed reason for why CNN+ failed here.