|Key people||Brian Angiolet (SVP Chief Content Officer), Richard Tom (GM and CTO, Verizon Digital Entertainment)|
|Current status||Shut down, July 31, 2018|
go90 was an American Internet television service and mobile app owned and operated by Verizon Communications. The service was positioned as a mobile-oriented "social entertainment platform" targeted primarily towards millennials, featuring a mixture of new and acquired content from various providers. The service was available exclusively within the United States, although as of March 2018 some of its content became available internationally via Tumblr.
Following an unsuccessful launch (which content partners credited to a lack of firm content strategies), resulting managerial turnover (including a relaunch of the service by the staff of Verizon acquisition and former competitor Vessel), on June 29, 2018, Verizon announced that go90 would be discontinued on July 31, 2018. Including acquisitions that became the basis of the service (such as Intel's OnCue project, and later Vessel), it was estimated that Verizon had spent $1.2 billion on the service.
In January 2014, Verizon acquired the talent and assets of OnCue—a then-planned subscription streaming service in development by Intel—for around $200 million. In September 2015, Verizon unveiled a streaming service based on the assets, known as go90. It was described as being a mobile-first "social entertainment platform" targeting millennial demographics, featuring video content from various partners, as well as features such as the ability to join "crews" related to shows, and to create clips from its shows and share them on social networks. The name "go90" referred to the practice of rotating a smartphone to landscape orientation to watch videos (a 90-degree rotation). Verizon planned to leverage ad technology and content assets it acquired in its purchase of AOL, and to release 50-55 new, short episode series.
Brian Angiolet, Verizon's senior vice president of consumer products, served as initial head of the service. Chip Canter, formerly of NBCUniversal, was brought on as general manager in March 2016, and hired Ivana Kirkbride, formerly of YouTube, as chief content officer. Under Canter, the service's content strategy shifted to one focusing on a wider variety of content in genres that had been performing well, such as gaming, music, sci-fi, sports (including live events), and dramas targeting young women. The service also planned to take a more granular approach to content acquisition, and lessen its aggressive focus on primarily targeting mobile platforms.
Despite high expectations from Verizon, go90's first year of operations were unsuccessful; partners reported that their content was drawing a minuscule audience (with most content only receiving view counts within the thousands, although some, such as The Runner, were able to reach at least a million), and that even under Canter's leadership, the service lacked clear content and distribution strategies. Digiday reported via go90 employees that Verizon's executives "were so consumed early on with the idea of providing a large quantity of high-quality content, that they never showed any focus. There was no indication that Verizon actually knew the audience that they were trying to reach." Insiders also noted that not enough internal metadata was provided to categorize go90's videos, which hampered search and discoverability. Verizon hired contractors to manually compose this information, in a process only intended to take three months. However, the process took nearly a year to complete. In May 2016, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam admitted that go90 may have been "a little bit overhyped", backpedaling on previous pronouncements and the implications of major business and media investments.
On October 26, 2016, Verizon acquired Vessel, a streaming video startup led by former Hulu executives Jason Kilar and Richard Tom, where subscriptions were used to receive priority access to its channels' newest content. The purchase was a talent acquisition, with Vessel shut down at the end of the month, and its staff re-assigned to work on go90. Kilar departed from the company. On January 23, 2017, it was reported that Verizon had laid off 155 go90 employees from its San Jose office, that had been displaced by the acquired Vessel staff. Tom was appointed as chief technology officer of Verizon Digital Entertainment. During Verizon's fourth quarter earnings report the next day, it was revealed that average daily usage of the go90 app was "consistent sequentially at about 30 minutes per viewer". In early February, a Verizon spokesperson told FierceVideo that the service had seen organic growth over the past two months.
In late-March 2017, go90 released a significant redesign of its mobile app, which was designed to help improve discovery and content recommendations, and prioritize live content (such as sports) within the interface. The redesign also incorporated the "motion poster" concept for advertisement displays that originated from Vessel. Chip Canter was replaced as general manager in April 2017 by Richard Tom. The following month, it was reported that go90's app had 2.1 million average monthly users.
Under Angiolet's direction as Global Content Chief, Verizon made multiple investments and acquisitions in an effort to bolster go90.
In April 2016, Verizon acquired a 24.5% stake in AwesomenessTV, a digital media studio and YouTube MCN targeting youth and teenagers, for around $159 million (valuing AwesomenessTV at $650 million). DreamWorks Animation and Hearst Corporation also owned stakes in the company. In addition, Verizon invested $180 million over multiple years for AwesomenessTV to produce content for go90.
A joint venture with Hearst, Verizon Hearst Media Partners, acquired Complex Media in a deal reportedly valuing the company at $250 to $300 million. At least two of the venture's initiatives, Seriously.TV and Rated Red were shuttered in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
go90 featured original series, such as Mr. Student Body President, My Dead Ex, The Runner (which was produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon), T@gged, Tween Fest, Street Fighter: Resurrection and Transformers: Prime Wars Trilogy. Its original series were acquired from studios such as CollegeHumor, Funny or Die, Nerdist Industries, Machinima, MTV, and Rooster Teeth Productions, among others., as well as producers like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, LeBron James, and Rob Gronkowski (who hosted and executive produced a Shark Tank-like series entitled MVP for two seasons).
From the onset, Mari Silbey of Light Reading felt that much of go90's library consisted of content that could already be found elsewhere, and contested whether Verizon's planned original content for the service would be compelling enough. In addition, Silbey argued that go90's announced social networking features were not inherently innovative for a video service, and that it was "hard to turn social media features into a driving force for popularity." Advertisers had been critical of the service, citing slower user adoption than expected. Warren Zenna of Havas Media felt that the app's user experience was inferior to that of YouTube.
Concerns were also displayed over Verizon's announced intent to not have go90 content count towards its subscribers' data caps, noting the company's stance against net neutrality.
The NWSL's streams on go90 faced sustained criticism from sportswriters: The Equalizer felt that the app was buggy and did not have the same wide device support as YouTube, while it was also argued that the relative obscurity of go90, and the inconsistent quality of the game streams, could harm the league's growth. After repeated technical issues, the league would live-stream several weeks of matches domestically on the NWSL website.
By 2017, as the service faltered, insiders suggested that Verizon had been aggressively overpaying on content deals in order to expedite them (describing the company as having made deals "guns blazing"), on the assumed basis that making large content investments would ensure growth.
Verizon subsequently acquired Yahoo!, and merged it with AOL into the subsidiary Oath. Its lead executive Tim Armstrong stated in February 2018 that go90 had been placed within the Oath division, but would likely be wound-down in the future. Armstrong admitted that go90 was a "super ambitious project", but that it was difficult to build its brand, and that its content deals could be better-leveraged by Oath's individual properties instead. In March 2018, Oath-owned blog platform Tumblr began to syndicate some of go90's original content internationally—which Digiday considered as being a pilot project for this strategy.
After more aggressive promotion of its content across AOL and Yahoo properties, go90 had managed to increase its average monthly user count to 17 million. On June 29, 2018, Oath officially announced that go90 would be shuttered on July 31, 2018. The company stated that it would be evaluating the futures of go90's original series, and that it would "focus on building its digital-first brands at scale in sports, finance, news and entertainment for today's mobile consumers and tomorrow's 5G applications."
Estimates vary on the losses attributed to the failed service. Digiday cited two sources close to go90 who estimated total spending of $1.2 billion, including the Vessel and OnCue acquisitions. In Verizon's filing for the third quarter of 2018, it cited $913 million in charges related to "product realignment" attributable to shutting down go90. In September 2018, Verizon laid off 50 employees in the Content Operations group managed by Brian Angiolet and eliminated the group. Ivana Kirkbride and Richard Tom were among the departing employees.
In 2018, AwesomenessTV was sold to Viacom for $50 million—a fraction of Verizon's $650 million valuation. Digiday reported that the company had depended strongly on content investments by Verizon for around 40% of its revenue, and that there had been animosity within the venture due to its majority partner DreamWorks Animation being acquired by a subsidiary of Comcast—a direct competitor to Verizon. Comcast also did not believe that AwesomenessTV aligned well with its other digital media investments, such as BuzzFeed and Vox Media.
- Patel, Sahil (2 July 2018). "'Never had a chance': Inside Verizon's $1 billion bad bet on Go90". digiday.com. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
- Scolaro, Christina (January 21, 2014). "Intel sells OnCue TV business to Verizon". CNBC. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
- Moritz, Scott; King, Ian (January 21, 2014). "Verizon Said to Spend Less Than $200 Million on Intel TV". Bloomberg. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
- "How Verizon's Go90 ended up as a mobile-only video service". CNET. 2015-09-15. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
- Spangler, Todd (2015-09-08). "Verizon Launches Go90 Free Mobile-Video App to Chew Up Wireless Bandwidth". Variety. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
- "Verizon's Mobile Video Service Go90 Launches To Public – TechCrunch". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
- Spangler, Todd (2015-09-08). "Verizon Launches Go90 Free Mobile-Video App to Chew Up Wireless Bandwidth". Variety. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
- "Inside Verizon's Plans to Reinvent the TV Ad Model With Go90". Ad Age. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
- Guerrasio, Jason (17 November 2015). "Verizon thinks it's created the go-to entertainment app for Millennials — and it might be right". Business Insider. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
- Guerrasio, Jason (17 November 2017). "Verizon thinks it's created the go-to entertainment app for Millennials — and it might be right". Business Insider. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
- Petski, Denise (8 December 2016). "Verizon Taps Erin McPherson As Head Of Content Strategy & Programming". Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- "Verizon's Go90 General Manager Chip Canter Out as Vessel Team Takes Over". Variety. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
- "Pitch deck: Verizon's plans for Go90 in 2017 and beyond". Digiday. 2017-01-27. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
- McAlone, Nathan (30 March 2017). "Verizon insiders describe the fight to save go90, its video service that has burned more than $200 million trying to catch the eye of millennials". Business Insider. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- "Verizon's Go90 partners start to lose faith, call platform 'absolute' dud, but signs of audience persist". FierceCable. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
- Sibley, Mari (24 May 2016). "Verizon Backpedals on Go90". Lightreading.com. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Solsman, Joan E. "Hulu vets launch Vessel, a premium mini YouTube with a price tag". CNET. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
- Spangler, Todd (2016-10-26). "Verizon Acquires Vessel, Will Shut Down Jason Kilar's Video Service". Variety. Retrieved 2019-04-21.
- "Verizon acquires subscription video service Vessel, will shut it down on Oct. 31". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2018-07-09.
- "Verizon Lays Off 155 Employees at Go90 Division (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
- Evans, Greg (2017-01-24). "Verizon Axes 155 Go90 Staffers; Streaming Service Targets Millennials". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-02-05.
- "Go90 'not dead,' had best organic growth in December, Verizon says". FierceVideo. Retrieved 2017-02-05.
- "YouTube Challenger Vessel Starts Showing Off Its Service, and a Slick New Ad Format". Recode. Vox Media. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
- "Verizon announces Go90 updates in effort to save cash-burning video platform". FierceCable. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
- McAlone, Nathan (1 April 2017). "Verizon has spent at least $200 million on video for its go90 service, which has 2.1 million monthly app users". Business Insider. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
- Spangler, Todd (6 April 2016). "Verizon to Acquire 24.5% Stake in AwesomenessTV for $159 Million". Variety.com. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Patel, Sahil (2 August 2018). "Go90 or bust: How AwesomenessTV's fate was tied to Verizon". Digiday. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Knutson, Ryan; Hagey, Keach; Alpert, Lukas I. (2016-04-18). "Verizon, Hearst Agree to Buy Complex Media; Deal is biggest move so far by joint venture the companies formed last month". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
- Schliefer, Theodore (2017-10-13). "Complex is the latest media company to lay off staff amid a pivot to video". Recode. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
- Flanagan, Andrew (2016-04-19). "Marc Ecko, Complex Media Co-Founder, on His Company After Verizon and Digital Media in the Facebook Age: Q&A". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
- Guaglione, Sara (21 August 2018). "Hearst, Verizon Shutter Rated Red, Conservative Video Brand". MediaPost. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
- Johnson, Jocelyn (April 11, 2016). "Verizon Hires GM of Digital Entertainment and Go90 - Grabs Chip Canter from NBCUniversal - VideoInk". videoink. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
- Andreeva, Nellie (March 16, 2016). "Ben Affleck & Matt Damon Reality Series 'The Runner' To Launch On Verizon Go90". deadline.com. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
- Petski, Denise (January 20, 2016). "Sports Comedy From LeBron James' Uninterrupted Set For Go90". deadline.com. Retrieved 2016-07-22.
- Emery, Debbie (September 7, 2017). "'MVP' Gets the Super Bowl Treatment as NFL star Rob Gronkowski Returns for Season 2". TheWrap. Retrieved February 20, 2019.
- "NWSL, go90 announce exclusive streaming partnership". Black and Red United (SBNation). Retrieved April 14, 2017.
- Silbey, Mari (1 October 2015). "Verizon's Go90 Is Live – Will Anyone Watch?". Lightreading.com. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Shield, Mike (2 August 2016). "Advertisers Say Verizon's go90 Rollout Has Been Rocky". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
- Epstein, Zach (24 December 2015). "Verizon Net Neutrality Violation In The Works With Go90 Premium". Boy Genius Report. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
- Krause, Reinhardt (22 December 2015). "Verizon Revs Premium Go90, Data Cap Limits Excluded". news.investors.com. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
- Lee, Allison (April 13, 2017). "Lee: NWSL missed the mark with go90". The Equalizer. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Rollins, Sean (May 15, 2017). "Go90 Deal Puts NWSL and Orlando Pride in Dire Situation". The Maneland (SB Nation). Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Smith, Chad C (May 1, 2017). "The NWSL's go90 Deal Could Be Hurting the League". The Blue Testament (SB Nation). Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Balf, Celia (May 19, 2017). "NWSL: For the next few weeks games will be live streamed on website and the league's app". Excelle Sports. Retrieved June 19, 2017.
- Roettgers, Janko (2018-02-13). "Oath CEO Tim Armstrong Casts Doubt on Future of Go90". Variety. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
- "With Go90 flatlining, Verizon sees Tumblr as home to original digital video programs". Digiday. 2018-04-20. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
- Spangler, Todd (2018-06-28). "Verizon Is Shutting Down Go90, Its Ill-Fated Mobile Video Service". Variety. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
- Spangler, Todd (24 July 2018). "Verizon Takes $900 Million Hit Against Q2 Earnings for Go90 Shutdown, Other Charges". Variety. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Johnson, Jocelyn. "Verizon Lays Off 50 in Video Business Consolidation". The Wrap. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
- Spangler, Todd (2017-02-14). "Verizon, AwesomenessTV Fold Premium-Content Venture, Samie Kim Falvey Out (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2019-04-21.