After the shocking announcement on April 21 that CNN+ would be shuttering only 29 days after its initial launch, many people are wondering what went wrong.
And while opinions may vary, from an overcrowded streaming market to an unnecessary deluge of content, there’s something quite disappointing about seeing a company put so much into a launch only to see it fail so quickly.
Businesses fail for a wide variety of reasons. Some suffer from taking a daring chance on something innovative that simply doesn’t catch.
For others, it’s a matter of timing. MySpace would never be big today, but in its time it reigned supreme because it appealed to people in the time period it appeared in.
Of course, CNN+ is far from the only business project to crash and burn so quickly.
What Other Business Ventures Were Fast to Fail?
Launched in April 1985, New Coke was a response to the changing soda business landscape of the time. Consumers were becoming more health-conscious and buying more diet soda and non-soft drinks, which was bad news for sales of Coke’s flagship product.
Since Pepsi was getting some love for having a sweeter taste, New Coke was a reformulation to try to emulate that. And at first people seemed okay with it. Sales rose by 8%, and it seemed as if the Coca-Cola Company (KO) – Get Coca-Cola Company Report had pioneered a success.
However, people were especially unhappy about the change in the South. In Constance L. Hays’ book “The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company,” she reports that more than 40,000 people contacted Coca-Cola via phone or letter to express their anger and disappointment over the change.
Exactly 79 days after the launch, Coke announced the old formula would be making a return as “Coke Classic.” New Coke was renamed Coke II in 1990 and still sold in some markets, but by 2002, it was quietly swept into its grave.
Quibi was a streaming service with one distinct idea: Serve streaming TV and movies people could watch on their phones while on the go. Originally founded in August 2018 as NewTV by Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg and former HP CEO Meg Whitman, Quibi managed to raise $1.75 billion from investors, making it very much seem like it could be the next big thing.
Launched in April 2020 as Quibi, the app seemed like a success at first, hitting #3 on the App Store and garnering 300,000 downloads on launch day. But it fell out of the top 50 a week after release, and by by early June, senior executives were being asked to take pay cuts.
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Quibi shuttered after just six months, and while many speculated on the reasons, there was one that rose far above the rest: All of its shows were terrible. One Verge writer aptly called them “garbage bin entertainment.”
Amazon Fire Phone
Amazon (AMZN) – Get Amazon.com, Inc. Report owns everything and makes trillions of dollars, so clearly it felt that launching its own phone could only be a success. Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos revealed the phone to audiences during a media event in 2014, hyping it up as “a phone for Amazon Prime members” that would come loaded with all the features they already loved.
But unlike the ease of Amazon Prime’s notoriously speedy shipping, the phone was riddled with difficulties. It was unable to use Google apps people had come to depend on via other devices. Importing a music library from iTunes was painful. Battery life was poor. Worst of all, the only way to get the phone for less than it’s $650 price was to sign a contract with AT&T, which many did not want to do.
By September 2014, AT&T dropped the cost of the phone to 99 cents with a two-year contract. The Fire Phone was officially a failure.
Burger King Satisfries
If you’ve never heard of these, don’t worry–they came and went so fast that a lot of people missed them entirely. They happened in the first place because Restaurant Brands International (RBI) ‘s Burger King decided to try out a healthier version of French fries in 2013.
Called Satisfries, they promised to contain 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories. But weirdly, they were calorically higher than a regular order of fries, and they also cost more, too ($1.89 versus $1.59 for the standard type).
Some customers nicknamed them “saddest fries” which ought to give you a pretty good idea of how well they went over.
Unsurprisingly, the fries were retired by 2014, and people kept on ordering the classic fries they knew and loved. French fries just aren’t the same when they’re trying to be healthy.
The idea Microsoft (MSFT) – Get Microsoft Corporation Report had behind Windows 8 seemed like a logical one: People were working across both PCs and tablets, so it wanted to launch an operating system that could cater to both.
The OS was launched in 2012, and it left customers feeling generally confused. The Start button was removed and the Start menu was replaced by a Start screen, leaving longtime Windows users lost as to how to navigate it.
Windows 8’s adoption numbers were pretty rough, and in response, Microsoft announced in 2014 that its next incarnation of the OS would bring back the classic features people were used to. It was a bold effort in many ways, but simply too much of a radical change at a time.