Verizon Backpedals on Go90

After a period of go, go, go, Verizon is now reining in the corporate rhetoric around its Go90 mobile video venture.

CEO Lowell McAdam worked to temper expectations for Go90 at the recent J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference by acknowledging that the service may have been "a little bit overhyped." And he explained that internally, the telco is taking a measured approach to the over-the-top service.

"I think we had always internally viewed Go90 as what we call patient money inside the business that we knew, because it wasn't our core competency, we knew we were going to have to build slowly in this area," said McAdam.

However, if Go90 was meant to be a slow build, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) did a poor job of communicating that strategy publicly. Instead of introducing the service as simply an add-on feature for mobile customers, Verizon made Go90 the centerpiece of its video product portfolio. And in one memorable appearance, the director of FiOS TV Maitreyi Krishnaswamy talked up the merits of the Go90 OTT service while also proudly announcing that she'd already cut the television cord. It was a strange pronouncement from the leader of Verizon's traditional video business. (See FiOS TV Director Cuts the Cord.)

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Verizon has also repeatedly thrown resources at Go90. Since buying the OnCue assets from Intel to power its mobile service back in 2014, Verizon has gone on to acquire AOL (which is valuable for far more than just its media properties) and invest in content companies like AwesomenessTV and Complex Media. Verizon also recently formed a joint venture with Hearst to further develop digital video programming. (See Verizon Closes AOL, Hints at Summer Launch and Verizon, Hearst Launch JV for Digital Content.)

The telco has insisted in the past that it doesn't want to be a content company, but its actions suggest otherwise.

Meanwhile, for as much as Verizon has hyped Go90, it hasn't been able to back up the happy talk with evidence of market success. In the company's most recent earnings call, CFO Fran Shammo said that Verizon is "encouraged" by early consumer response to Go90, but he declined to give further details. (See Verizon on Video: It's All About the Kids.)

McAdam went on at the J.P Morgan conference to say that, "We're going to continue to pursue it, but our expectations are realistic."

That lukewarm attitude isn't likely to inspire confidence in Go90's future. Which begs the question, how much of a future does Go90 have?

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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