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Verizon Is Shutting Down Go90, Its Ill-Fated Mobile Video Service

Go90 is officially being eighty-sixed.

Verizon’s Go90 free, ad-supported mobile video service — launched nearly three years ago — will cease on July 31. The Go90 app, stocked with a mix of short-form original entertainment, live sports, and licensed TV shows, was never able to attract any kind of sizable audience and as a result struggled to book advertising dollars. Verizon had invested hundreds of millions on technology and content for Go90.

As an attempt to build an mobile entertainment brand from scratch, Go90 failed because Verizon arguably didn’t effectively market the millennial-targeted service. Go90’s operations have already been combined into Oath, the division that merged AOL and Yahoo.

“Following the creation of Oath, Go90 will be discontinued,” a Verizon rep said in a statement. “Verizon will 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.”

Oath CEO Tim Armstrong had already telegraphed the telco’s move to kill off Go90 as a standalone brand. Armstrong, speaking at the Code Media conference this February, indicated Go90 eventually would be phased out and noted that content procured for Go90 was being distributed across Yahoo and other Verizon properties.

According to Verizon, the problem with Go90 was its inability to achieve scaled distribution. After pumping Go90 programming across Oath sites and apps over the last six months, the total audience for Go90 programming has exploded to an average of more than 17 million unique viewers per month.

Under Verizon’s reformulated mobile-video strategy, the tip of the spear is live sports. The telco has exclusive pacts with the NFL and the NBA for games and related content that’s distributed through Yahoo Sports. Verizon now is looking at inking other deals for news and entertainment mobile content.

For Go90, Verizon had acquired content from a range of partners including AwesomenessTV (in which Verizon owns a minority stake), Complex Networks (jointly owned by Verizon and Hearst) Vice Media, New Form and Endemol Shine North America. The company informed programming partners of the decision to pull the plug on Go90 on Thursday.

Go90’s originals included “Top Grier,” an unscripted comedy with social-media teen star Hayes Grier; political comedy series “Embeds” from exec producers including Megyn Kelly and Michael De Luca; and social-media thriller “@tagged” from AwesomenessTV. Other series included sports comedy “Now We’re Talking” from LeBron James’ Uninterrupted and Warner Bros.’ Blue Ribbon Content; Peter Berg’s “QB1: Beyond the Lights” high-school football docu-series; and New Form’s “Mr. Student Body President” teen comedy and sci-fi adventure series “Miss 2059.”

According to a Verizon rep, the fate of some of Go90’s original programming has yet to be determined. The company will work with content partners to figure out next steps, she said.

Go90 was also beset by turmoil on the technical-development front. Verizon had acquired Intel’s OnCue division — which had developed an over-the-top video service that ultimately never launched — for $200 million in January 2014.

The ex-OnCue team built the original Go90 platform. Then in October 2016, Verizon acquired Vessel, the struggling internet-video startup co-founded by Jason Kilar, and killed Vessel’s consumer-facing service. In January 2017, Verizon laid off most of the former OnCue team to turn over Go90 development to the former Vessel crew.

At this point, the fate of the employees who have been dedicated to building Go90 is uncertain. A Verizon rep said there will not be significant layoffs as the result of the shutdown of Go90 but said there would be redundant positions that will likely be eliminated.

The Go90 initiative had been headed by Brian Angiolet, senior VP, chief content officer at Verizon. The telco in early 2016 hired Chip Canter, a former exec in NBCUniversal’s digital distribution group, as Go90’s general manager; Canter parted ways with Verizon last year.

Even with the death of Go90, Verizon touted some of its critically acclaimed original content. That included an Oscar win this year for Kobe Bryant’s animated short film “Dear Basketball.”

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