|Key people||Richard Tom (GM and CTO, Verizon Digital Entertainment)|
go90 was an American over-the-top video 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) and 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.
go90 was originally formed using assets and talent acquired from Intel's unreleased OnCue streaming service, which Verizon acquired for around $200 million in January 2014. Unveiled in September 2015, go90 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. Verizon planned to leverage ad technology and content assets it acquired in its purchase of AOL. Verizon planned to release 50-55 new, short episode series.
Chip Canter, formerly of NBCUniversal, was brought on as general manager in March 2016, and hired Ivana Kirkbride of Vessel and YouTube as chief content officer. Under Canter, the service's content strategy shifted to one focusing on a wider variety of content and genres. 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."
On January 23, 2017, it was reported that the staff of Vessel (which had been acquired by Verizon in October) would be taking over go90's operations and redeveloping the service, resulting in Verizon laying off 155 go90 employees from its San Jose office. Vessel's co-founder Richard Tom was appointed as chief technology officer of Verizon Digital Entertainment. In late-March 2017, go90 released a significant redesign of its mobile app, which is designed to help improve discovery and content recommendations, and prioritize live content (such as sports) within the interface. The redesign also incorporates the "motion poster" concept for advertisement displays that originated from Vessel. Chip Canter was replaced as general manager in April 2017 by Richard Tom.
In April 2017, it was reported that go90's app only had 2.1 million average monthly users. 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, fellow Oath property 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."
go90 features original series like Mr. Student Body President starring Jeremy Shada and Arden Rose, The Runner, T@gged, Tween Fest, Street Fighter: Resurrection and Transformers: Prime Wars Trilogy from companies like MTV, Funny or Die, CollegeHumor, My Dead Ex for AwesomenessTV, Nerdist Industries, Rooster Teeth, Machinima, and more, as well as producers like Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and LeBron James.
Advertisers have been critical of the service, citing slower user adoption than expected. Warren Zenna, a digital specialist at Havas Media, categorized the service as being like YouTube but not as good. Part of the challenge was a poor interface, and difficulty finding the application. A reviewer for Boy Genius Report said that the development of go90 was a continuation of Verizon's opposition to net neutrality. Verizon planned to offer its subscribers go90 content without that content counting toward their bandwidth cap.
During Verizon's Q4 2016 earnings call on January 24, 2017, chief financial officer Matt Ellis, cited “... the average daily usage in go90 was consistent sequentially at about 30 minutes per viewer, with less than 20% of traffic surfed on the Verizon wireless network in the second half of the year.”
Beginning in 2017, the National Women's Soccer League began streaming games in the United States exclusively on go90, as part of a paid multi-year sponsorship agreement, though after repeated technical issues, the league would live-stream several weeks of matches domestically on the NWSL website. Continuing issues with go90, as well as the agreement's more limited accessibility drew sustained criticism from journalists covering the league.
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