Verizon Kind Of Wants To Be Your New Netflix, But With More Ads

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

If it feels like the media and technology worlds of late are constantly going through this weird, ebbing, flowing, overlapping process, well, you’re not wrong. Jumping into the fray most recently is Verizon, which not only has its own streaming service but also now wants to sell you on original content… that it can, of course, stuff with advertising for your eyeballs.

Verizon already has its landline and wireless businesses well in hand, the Wall Street Journal explains, so its next big frontier is where all the money seems to be going: video content.

Verizon’s streaming service, Go90, launched last year to basically no acclaim or fanfare whatsoever. As of the end of 2015, the app had been downloaded about 2 million times, across both iOS and Android.

But also at the time, Verizon boasted about 112 million wireless customers — and Go90 is available on other carriers as well. In fact, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo closed out 2015 and rang in 2016 by reminding investors that the streaming service was not expected to be profitable for at least two years.

And so Verizon is taking a page from the Netflix’s book: to bring in and retain subscribers, woo them with original content.

Verizon stepped up last fall to buy a reality show that the networks had passed on, the WSJ says, and they apparently stepped up for real. The show’s producer called it “broadcast-network money.”

The move is seen as traveling in tandem with Verizon’s purchase of AOL, which came with a whole bunch of advertising data the merged company can tap into.

In short, like Facebook, Verizon wants you to sit and stream videos you can’t get anywhere else… and to enjoy the occasional highly-targeted, short message from these sponsors along with.

Verizon has expressed the goal of becoming the “Viacom of tomorrow,” which may sound weird for a phone company.

CEO Lowell McAdam told the WSJ that it’s all part of a smart growth strategy: “Any time a business stands still like this and tries to just live on what you’ve done, you’re beginning the death spiral,” he said.

Aside from buying reality shows, Verizon has also been acquiring stakes in small, niche online-only media and YouTubers as well as reaching out for that coveted young, male, sports-viewing demographic by buying Complex Media.

So will it actually work? That’s the big “who knows.” Five years from now, Go90 might be another household TV name… or it might be in the dustbin of digital ideas everyone forgot ever existed.

Inside Verizon’s Gamble on Digital Media [Wall Street Journal]