It's been a week of streaming video news. Not just the big announcements like Comcast's launch of Watchable and TiVo's new all-in-one Bolt DVR, but also smaller updates, like the addition of Sling TV to Chromecast, a Netflix deal to stream video on Virgin flights and the NBA's decision to simulcast one of its programs on cable and its Facebook page.
Into that maelstrom of news now comes word that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has officially launched its long-awaited Go90 mobile video service. Go90 is available to everyone, and it's free to download as an app for iOS or Android. Content includes some cable shows and short-form web-based content, along with live music and sports events. The service also touts a number of social sharing features, including a chat function, crowd-sourced recommendations and even a "Cut and Share" feature that lets users clip sections from select shows and share them online.
Go90 is the product of literally years of development and company acquisitions. It has a solid technical foundation supported by Verizon's own video delivery platform, and it has the potential to tap new sources of revenue from advertising and sponsorships. For a history, see:
- Verizon Kicks Off Go90 Private Beta
- Verizon Builds Toward OTT Launch
- Verizon Dubs New OTT Service Go90 – Report
- Verizon Closes AOL, Hints at Summer Launch
- Verizon Focuses on Cashing In on LTE
- Verizon Crafting OTT Business Models
- Is Redbox Instant Shutting Down?
- Why Did Verizon Buy OnCue?
The big question now is, will anyone use it?
With so many sources of content available on so many different devices in so many places, it takes a standout service to draw attention from the millennial audience that Verizon craves. The issue is not even whether the service is well put-together, but whether it offers something users aren't getting somewhere else.
When YouTube Inc. launched, it was a pioneer in showcasing user-generated video content. When Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) started streaming TV shows and movies, it was the first to do so in any kind of practical way. And while Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) joined the streaming video party much later, it has gained traction because of Amazon's new original programming.
The bulk of the content available on Go90 is also available for free in other places, and it's unclear if Verizon's exclusive content -- which appears to be largely built around celebrity projects (a Sarah Silverman show, an original series from James Franco) and content extras from networks like MTV and the Discovery Channel -- is compelling enough to draw viewers. Verizon thinks it can differentiate the service through its social aspects. But social elements are also embedded in lots of other video platforms, and it's hard to turn social media features into a driving force for popularity.
Live event streaming could make the difference for Go90, but that assumes that Verizon will be able to offer access to live events that viewers care about either exclusively, or in a way that's cheaper or easier than the other options available.
Verizon has a wealth of technical expertise and the resources to support a full-fledged mobile video service. But that doesn't mean it knows how to navigate an entertainment market that is growing more fractured every day. On that front, only time will tell.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading