Verizon ups ante in mobile video with Go90's launch of 'The Runner'

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) is doubling down on its mobile video offering with today's launch of "The Runner," a reality series from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

The series, which will premiere on the carrier's Go90 offering, features a "runner" trying to make it across the U.S. in 30 days without being caught by eight teams of "chasers." The runner can win $1 million if successful, and mobile users can win money by watching on their phones and helping the chasers.

The show was scheduled to debut on ABC in 2001 but was pulled due to security concerns following the attacks of 9/11. Affleck and Damon produced the show through Project Greenlight, a documentary series that recently returned to HBO.

The nation's largest mobile carrier will air three live episodes of the show every day.

Verizon is moving aggressively to expand its media business with Go90, an OTT video offering available to customers of any mobile carrier. UBS said last month that while G90 is gaining traction, it faces "an uphill battle" against other mobile video and social networking apps and services. Verizon increased its advertising spending earlier this year, leading to a "brief uptick" in Go90 downloads, but the app has yet to emerge as a threat to competitors such as YouTube, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Instagram and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX).

Carriers and TV networks have struggled to leverage mobile video for more than a decade. In 2004, for example, Twentieth Century Fox began to offer one-minute "mobisodes" of its hit TV show "24," but the effort failed to find much of an audience.

Earlier efforts failed to leverage the interactive capabilities of mobile, however, and essentially tried to duplicate the TV viewing experience in short form on a small screen. The star power of Damon and Affleck will certainly help Verizon attract attention to its new show, and enabling users to be involved in real time could prove to be a compelling feature. Whether all that will be enough to give Go90 a much-needed lift, though, is far from clear.

For more:
- see this Mobile Marketer article

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