Verizon Partners: Go90 A “Huge Dud,” “Far, Far Worse” Than Expected

Exactly one year ago, Verizon announced that it was jumping hard into the streaming-media biz, with a mobile-friendly service designed for the giant consumer base everyone apparently loves to hate, millennials. The company called it “go90,” helpfully reminding everyone that to watch TV on your phone, you need to turn it 90 degrees to the horizontal. But skeptics wondered: is this really going to, y’know, work? Will anyone watch? Will anyone care? And a year on, we seem to have our answer: nope.
Original programming — that push to be another Netflix, but with ads — isn’t doing a thing for Verizon and partners are not thrilled, according to Digiday.

Verizon, built years ago from reunited regional fragments of Ma Bell, isn’t satisfied being a telephone company. It wants to be a digital media company, and is using recent acquisitions of 90s relics AOL and Yahoo to get a toehold in that space. Go90 was — theoretically, is — supposed to be a major leap in that direction. But a year on, no matter how much money the company spends, its numbers remain, well, underwhelming.

Sources estimate that Verizon has spent $200 million snapping up rights to content for its service, Digiday reports, working on the theory of “if you show it, they will come.”

But faced with a dizzying array of competition, the consumers are not following the money.

Content partners report that individual video views number in the thousands, Digiday says, which may as well be no views at all in a market this size.

“Early on, we thought the platform had promise, but it was an absolute dud when it launched,” one partner told Digiday.

Another said, “Based on the plan they had originally laid out, it would have been a mid-tier platform for us — millions of views per month, at worst — but it’s turned out to be far, far worse than their projections.”

Verizon isn’t giving up on Go90 yet, Digiday says; it’s trying to actually operate it like the media service it is, instead, and seeing if that works. The company’s hiring media executives to run the media biz, including a chief content officer and a content team. The new plan is to operate Go90 with clear “verticals” for the programming: sports, comedy, drama, and so on. If they can get you watching one thing, they may be able to use that to draw you to others — basically the strategy other media have employed since newspapers first developed sections.

Will it work? Well, anything’s possible. Maybe by 2018 the hot new show everyone’s talking about will be a Verizon exlusive… or maybe the service will quietly sunset, never to be mentioned again.

Inside Verizon’s struggle to build a digital entertainment business [Digiday via DSL Reports]

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