Report: Verizon to launch 'Go90' mobile OTT video service in the coming days

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) plans to launch its over-the-top mobile video service, rumored to be called "Go90," in the coming days, and will initially offer free shows aimed at young viewers, according to a Bloomberg report.

The report, citing an unnamed person familiar with the matter, said the Go90 service, which has been in testing for a while now, will feature content only from a handful of media partners including AOL, Awesomeness TV, Vice Media and Viacom. Verizon has been testing the Go90 name with thousands of users, the report added, saying the term stems from the act of rotating a mobile device's screen 90-degrees sideways for video viewing.

According to the report, the service, which will be advertising-based, is a scaled down version of what Verizon had initially planned earlier this year, when it was contemplating a subscription-based mobile TV service with programming from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, including live feeds and on-demand offerings. Verizon plans to introduce popular channels, NFL games and other programming in the coming year, the report said. Verizon said in July that HBO content, though not necessarily HBO Now, will be part of its over-the-the-top mobile video service.

Variety reported in July that while Go90's iOS and Android apps are going to be free to download and available to non-Verizon customers, at least some of the content for the service will be exclusive for Verizon's wireless subscribers.

Verizon declined to comment, according to Bloomberg.

Verizon executives have said the service will launch sometime in the late summer, and since summer technically runs through Sept. 23, Verizon has a few weeks left to make good on that promise. Marni Walden, EVP and president of products and new business innovation at Verizon, is delivering a keynote address next week at CTIA's Super Mobility conference. Walden has been the executive in charge of the OTT video service's launch and could make an announcement about the service during her Sept. 10 address.

Verizon hopes that the service will appeal to younger users and is designed to encourage easy sharing of videos via social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, the report said. Verizon also hopes the AOL purchase, which gave the carrier access to AOL's advertising technology, will help it deliver more targeted and relevant ads to users by accessing their location and interests.  

In July Verizon indicated it will launch the service in the late summer but augment it over time. "It won't be the full entirety of everything that we contemplate within the product set," Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said on the company's second-quarter earnings call about the mobile video service. "It'll be an initial launch and, as the year goes on, it will progress."

Shammo also noted that AOL content will be part of the offering thanks to Verizon's $4.4 billion deal to buy AOL, including content from the Huffington Post and TechCrunch.

"This is a lineup that is really around all live-type news clips and sports and events, so very different than what anyone else is bringing to the marketplace," Shammo said, according to a Verizon transcript of his remarks.

Shammo said in July that the video service will have advertising-supported content and will include some free sponsored content. "A sponsored data model down the road... that will generate the usage and the eyeballs that are very appealing to advertisers," Shammo added.

That fits with what Verizon executives have said before. "Ad-sponsored data is part of the product offering," Walden said in June during a conference call with the media to discuss the completion of Verizon's AOL deal.

Other carriers have been divided over OTT video, though T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and Sprint (NYSE: S) do not have the kind of access to content that Verizon and AT&T (NYSE: T) do. Some analysts expect AT&T's deal to buy DirecTV will lead the carrier to launch an OTT video product. After AT&T's analyst day last month Jackdaw Research analyst Jan Dawson noted that "there were several references to providing video over both managed and unmanaged networks, and the context was such that this didn't seem to just be talking about TV Everywhere-type extensions to classic services. I'm very curious to see if this means we're going to see either DirecTV or U-Verse branded video services being sold to subscribers that can't or don't want to buy the traditional services from either company."

T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said in July that it's not clear customers are demanding a T-Mobile-branded, curated video experience. He said "if our customers want us to be in the video business curating and picking video, and if we can add value to that by being both in the content and into network, with synergies between the two for efficiency sake or value sake, then we'll do it. But the question really is what do customers really want? And do they want us in that business?"

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said last month on the company's quarterly earnings call that carriers do not have a stellar track record in terms of launching OTT services. "So we're watching and we believe that anything that's being done can be replicated through partnerships rather than also having to buy assets in video or content," he said. "Most of the content that Verizon is getting is non-exclusive content and that's available to most. So therefore, we think we can get to a similar situation once we're able to strike the right amount of partnerships. And I think it can leverage on one of Sprint's biggest strengths which is because of the size of the spectrum we have, we believe to be leading basically in capacity, which is something that is quite important as you deliver video to your customers."

For more:
- see this Bloomberg article 
- see this Multichannel News article 

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