Verizon (NYSE: VZ) subscribers will be able to watch zero-rated video through the carrier's Go90 app starting this week, CFO Fran Shammo said.
Speaking at an investors conference, Shammo said Verizon users will be able to view sponsored video without it having an impact on their monthly data allotments. The offering will be delivered through FreeBee Data, a service Verizon unveiled last month that enables content providers to pay the cost of delivering their services to users.
The move is the carrier's latest effort to expand beyond traditional wireless services into media. And it's an extension of Go90, an over-the-top app that is available to users on competitors' networks.
"You can use (Go90) over Wi-Fi, you don't have to be a Verizon wireless customer to download the app and enjoy that," Shammo said. "However, starting March 5, first with FreeBee Data and now taking that to commercial launch, if you are a Verizon Wireless customer you'll be able to enjoy that content free."
And Shammo said marketers are eager to leverage FreeBee Data because Verizon's user data enables them to deliver their ads more accurately than they can through traditional advertising platforms.
"It's still early stages, but advertisers are excited about the prospects around Go90, and the reason is because we can target more directly -- not using individual customer information but combining that, so if I'm an advertiser in New York who only wants to target 20- to 25-year-olds with my product, we can actually do that using our database and using the Go90 platform to launch that advertisement to that base.
"And that's worth more to an advertiser rather than a blanket TV ad that goes across multiple units and there's multiple segments that would never buy that product," he explained.
Indeed, the combination of a media platform and a highly granular customer database is likely to be a potent weapon for advertisers. But like other carriers that have begun to experiment with zero-rated data, Verizon has drawn flak from critics who claim FreeBee Data runs afoul of net neutrality guidelines and can be used to promote favored content from deep-pocketed media companies at the expense of smaller players.
Shammo also reiterated Verizon's eagerness to deploy 5G services, noting that the carrier is currently conducting trials of next-generation technologies in five cities. Verizon is "trying to get the FCC to clear the spectrum," for such services, he said, adding that 5G "could be commercially launched sometime in '17."
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