Verizon’s new mobile video service go90, which is aimed at capturing a younger demographic who spends more time watching video on their phones than with traditional TV, is launching publicly today on both the iTunes App Store and Google Play. The service was previously available in beta starting last month, with a select group of Verizon Wireless customers and subscribers from other carriers.
[Disclosure: TechCrunch parent company AOL is owned by Verizon.]
Go90, whose name refers to the way users flip their phone horizontally to watch videos, is now one of several offerings from TV and communications providers who are angling to compete at a time when cable television subscriptions are on the decline, as users turn to streaming services like those from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and others.
Verizon’s service will more directly go up against those from rivals like Dish which is offering a cross-platform streaming version of cable TV with Sling TV, as well as two streaming services from Comcast, one an internet-based TV service called Stream and, the other, the newly launched video app focused on web series and online content called Watchable.
However, go90 differentiates itself by focusing only on mobile devices – iOS and Android – instead of attempting to build apps for connected TVs, streaming media players or the desktop. This also benefits Verizon as it increases data consumption on mobile devices, and therefore generates additional revenue for Verizon Wireless.
Unlike Sling TV, which focuses on cable TV or Watchable, which is more about online video, go90 aims to offer a mix of content from traditional TV networks alongside online video and content from multi-channel networks, plus live events, including NFL games and concerts.
The go90 lineup includes networks like Comedy Central, Food Network, ESPN, NFL Network,One World Sports, Discovery, VH1, MTV, SPIKE, TLC, Adult Swim, HGTV, BET, Investigation Discovery, New Form Digital, Univision, Viacom, AwesomenessTV, Vice, Tastemade, Maker Studios, Fullscreen, Stylehaul, Collective Digital, Machinima, EliteDaily, DEFY, Legendary, AOL/HuffPo, and more.
From these networks, go90 will offer popular shows like those from VICE, HuffPost Live, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Machinima, Maker, ESPN’s 30 for 30, Love and Hip Hop, MTV, and Gold Rush, plus originals from Endemol’s Michelle Phan, JASH’s Sarah Silverman, DreamWorksTV’s Shrek and Donkey, and James Franco in AOL’s original series, “Making A Scene.”
AwesomenessTV is also producing a daily live show called “Top Five Live,” which will feature Hunter March recapping “trendy moments of online culture” in front of a live studio audience, says Verizon. The show will have guest star appearances from both digital and mainstream culture.
Meanwhile, for Verizon Wireless subscribers, Verizon is augmenting the service with exclusives, including content from MTV, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel and Food Network and the NFL, which will mirror Verizon’s NFL Mobile experience.
There will also be professional sports coverage with live games from NCAA football and basketball, and international soccer. And there will be live concerts monthly, Verizon notes, but that lineup is still forthcoming. However, beta testers already had the chance to watch Kayne West live from the Hollywood Bowl and the Life is Beautiful Festival.
In total, go90 will launch with 8,000 titles and over 35 exclusive original series, which will nearly double by year’s end. The catalog includes 15 of the 30 most-viewed network shows and 9 of the 15 most-viewed shows on the web, Verizon says.
Go90 itself is free and ad-supported, utilizing both pre-roll and mid-roll ads. According to AdAge, go90 has already received over $50 million in ad commitments, including a newer upfront deal with Publicis Groupe, who signed on as the exclusive ad agency for the fourth quarter. More than 10 of the holding company’s brands plan to advertise on go90, but the company wouldn’t say which would be live as the service launches.
To power its ads, go90 will take advantage of AOL’s ad-tech platform – a technology that was one of the key reasons Verizon acquired AOL for $4.4 billion earlier this year. It will also use AOL-owned content marketing platform Pictela (now a part of One by AOL:Creative) for video ads, AdAge notes.
Another notable difference between Verizon’s offering and those from a number of competitors, including larger streaming services like Amazon, Hulu and, to some extent, Netflix, is go90’s social networking component. The service lets users follow their favorite shows, celebs and friends and join interest-based groups called “crews,” related to the content. They’ll also be able to cut and share favorite video clips from go90 via SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter.
The app itself still needs a little tweaking. The design is rough around the edges, and the “My Feed” section is blank at first launch, which is a bad experience. Video thumbnails at the top of the “Explore” section are not centered, which will drive some people crazy, too.
The pre-roll ads are something of a put-off to diving into the content, and the “clipping” feature only works when videos are horizontal. Ironically, Verizon is betting on horizontal – or “go90” – viewing at a time when a number of other services, including Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter’s Periscope, and Facebook, are making it easy to watch videos vertically – the way people actually hold their phones.
(We’ll dive into go90 in a longer review at a later date.)