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Verizon's Go90 Shakes Hands With Eternity

Jeff Baumgartner
7/2/2018
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"Hey! It's time to say goodbye," the Verizon Go90 app tells visitors when the app is opened, noting that Go90 will no longer be available as of July 30.

The decision isn't a huge surprise as Verizon moves forward with a digital content strategy focused on Oath, the Verizon unit that runs Yahoo and AOL. Speaking at the Recode Code Conference in February, Oath CEO Tim Armstrong hinted that Go90's days as a standalone service and brand could be numbered.

"We have taken Go90 into Oath," Armstrong said at the time. "The [Go90] brand will remain; I don't know how long for."

Though Go90 will continue to function for a few more weeks, users are already being directed to seek content directly via other Oath-owned properties such as Yahoo Sports, HuffPost and Tumblr.

"Following the creation of Oath, Go90 will be discontinued," Verizon said in a statement to multiple media outlets. "Verizon will focus on building its digital-first brands at scale in sports, finance, news and entertainment for today's mobile consumers and tomorrow's 5G applications."

Verizon hasn't disclosed how much money it has poured into Go90, but estimates reportedly have that investment in the range of $300 million to more than $1 billion.

Though mobile-focused Go90 failed to attract an audience at a scale that is large enough to lure big advertising dollars, Verizon made significant efforts to tweak and retool the service before throwing in the towel.

In March 2017, it launched a redesign of Go90 that attempted to fix the service's clunky content discovery mechanism, improve its advertising capabilities, and tack on more premium content. That "3.0" redesign was crafted by a relatively new team that was created out of Verizon's 2016 acquisition of Vessel, a startup headed by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar that tried (and failed) to compete with YouTube for online talent and viewers.

Comcast has been less ambitious with Watchable, an ad-based service focused on short-form video introduced in the fall of 2015. Watchable is still offered on mobile apps and via the cable operator's Internet-connected X1 set-top boxes but has cut its investment in original content for that platform.

Go90, meanwhile, fell short as an OTT service that aggregated licensed digital content alongside a small subset of exclusive content. The service was fighting against the scale and reach of YouTube as well as an emerging array of other free, ad-supported video services such as Pluto TV, Xumo and Tubi. Those services reach not only mobile devices but also a variety of smart TVs and TV-connected streaming devices.

Go90's lack of access on connected TV devices and a limited number of exclusive titles made it difficult for the service to stand apart in a crowded market when much of that content is also available on other OTT services, Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst at nScreenMedia, said.

"I think it was always a difficult sell to consumers," Dixon said.

The decision to shutter Go90 comes as Verizon tweaks other parts of its over-the-top video strategy.

In May, outgoing Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam confirmed in an interview with Yahoo Finance that Verizon had dropped the pursuit of its own OTT TV service amid the ongoing decline of traditional, linear TV. (See Vanquished in Video, Verizon Admits OTT Defeat.)

Instead, Verizon will seek out integrated distribution deals for Oath's digital content. That strategy will see Verizon lock up a deal later this year with an existing virtual MVPD, a group that currently includes YouTube TV, Sling TV, Sony's PlayStation Vue, Philo, Hulu, fuboTV and DirecTV Now.

Dixon said teaming with an existing OTT TV partner could prove to be a smart move for Verizon as it seeks out more distribution outlets for Oath’s content.

"It could give them a way to differentiate a service using their own content,” he said.

Go90's demise didn't escape the mockery of T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who predicted from the start that Go90 would be a "debacle," likening it to Amazon's stumble with the Fire Phone:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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kq4ym
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kq4ym,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/16/2018 | 8:09:14 AM
Re: Go for broke
With the admission that they " failed to attract an audience at a scale that is large enough to lure big advertising dollars," one might wonder is even the boss's background in advertising was a help to this failed venture.
wanlord
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wanlord,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/3/2018 | 2:18:23 PM
90 Degrees in the ground
How is it this guy Brian Angeliot keeps getting promoted while running 100's of millions of dollars into the ground? Redbox Venture, Go90, Multi Screen Video, all failed promises, layoffs, etc. Why aren't investors & employees vocal enough to get these tools out of there!
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/3/2018 | 12:21:54 PM
Re: Go for broke
At one point a couple of months ago, Timmy A. was rumored to be going back to his natural habitat -- advertising. Maybe that fell through.
Jeff Baumgartner
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Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/3/2018 | 12:17:19 PM
Re: Go for broke
Thanks, happy to be back in the fold here at LR. So I'd say Tim Armstrong is in charge of video there from the Oath perspective. JB 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/2/2018 | 2:28:53 PM
Go for broke
Jeff -- Does this mean Tim Armstrong is in charge of Verizon's video strategy? Oh -- and welcome back.
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