Verizon and AwesomenessTV have decided to not move forward with the premium-content service they were developing, and with the move Samie Kim Falvey — the TV exec they had hired to oversee the venture — is leaving, Variety has learned.
The companies had announced plans for the premium service a year ago, billed as a kind of HBO for millennials with short-form shows designed for mobile phones. The plan was for the service to be separate from Verizon’s Go90 ad-supported service. The joint venture had been internally code-named “Made for Mobile,” although Verizon and AwesomenessTV had not given it an official name.
In a joint statement provided to Variety, the companies said, “The most important part of the Awesomeness/Verizon go90 partnership is our premium content, and the success of ‘Guidance’ and ‘T@gged’ have shown what we can do together. Rather than launch a new and separate venture, we decided to instead double down on the Awesomeness episodic series output for go90 and also extend the term of our relationship to best build on the momentum we are seeing with our Gen Z target audience.”
Verizon and AwesomenessTV tapped Falvey, who exited as head of comedy for ABC Entertainment in 2015 after shepherded through hits for the network including “Modern Family,” “The Goldbergs,” “Black-ish,” “The Middle” and “Fresh Off the Boat.” She had been with ABC for 10 years, after working at Fox.
Falvey, as chief content officer for the venture, had hired executives for her team including Russell Rothberg, former head of executive VP of drama development at Universal Television, as senior VP of creative. Falvey did not respond to requests for comment.
“We are big fans of Samie and the super creative team she assembled,” AwesomenessTV president Brett Bouttier said in a statement. “We are grateful to have worked with her and her team and are eager to find ways to work with them going forward.”
Plans for the premium mobile-content service were announced when Verizon acquired a 24.5% stake in AwesomenessTV in April 2016, with the telco investing $159 million into the company. AwesomenessTV is majority owned by DreamWorks Animation (now part of Comcast), and Hearst owns the remaining 24.5% stake.
Separately, Verizon last month laid off 155 staffers in its Go90 division, mostly former employees of Intel’s OnCue over-the-top service. The telco is tasking the team from Vessel, which Verizon acquired last year, to rebuild to Go90 service and handle its engineering and operations.
Not long after the news broke Monday, AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins made an appearance at the Code Media conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., but did not address the end of the content joint venture with Verizon. He did, however, address the state of Go90.
“I think it’s really slow slow going,” he said. “I think the audience is small right now but growing right now over the last six months. They pivoted the product a lot.”
Andrew Wallenstein contributed to this story.