|Key people||Brian Angiolet (SVP Chief Content Officer), 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. It is estimated that Verizon spent up to $1.2B on the failed venture.
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. Go90 was characterized as "The brainchild of Brian Angiolet, senior vice president of consumer products at Verizon". Angiolet is further credited as being the person in charge of the service from the outset. 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.
– Jeanine Poggi, AdAge
When launched in 2015, the service had tens of thousands of video titles, but users were unable to find something to watch. To fix this "stumble" Verizon hired data entry people to watch and tag the videos with meta data. Planned as a 3-month project, it took nearly a year to complete the work. The content mix was also "haphazard" and it seemed to insiders that the leadership did not know how to focus on the target audience. 
Among the "revolving door" of go90 executives, 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."
Estimates vary on the losses attributed to the failed service. Digiday cited two sources close to go90 who put the price-tag at $1.2B including the Vessel and OnCue acquisitions. In Verizon's Q3 2018 quarterly filings, it cited $913M 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.
Under Angiolet's direction as Global Content Chief, Verizon inked several content licensing and product deals.
Verizon paid about $159 million to acquire a 24.5% stake in AwesomenessTV, the youth-focused production company owned by DreamWorks Animation and Hearst. In addition to the equity stake based on a valuation of $650M, Verizon would continue to pay AwesomenessTV an additional $180M for shows it would produce in a multi-year deal. A little more than two years later, Viacom acquired Awesomeness TV for $50M (about 8% of the original $650M valuation) from Verizon and the other partners. The dramatically lower price was attributed in part to Verizon's decision to get out of go90's "made for mobile" content business following its dissatisfaction with the segment. With Verizon representing 40% of AwesomnessTV's revenue, its business prospects were significantly reduced such that "nobody wanted it".
Verizon also partnered with Hearst in a 50%/50% business called Verizon Hearst Media Partners which then acquired Complex Media in a deal reportedly valuing the company at $250 to $300 million. At least two of the JV's initiatives, Seriously.TV and Rated Red were shuttered in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
By 2017 as the service faltered, insiders revealed the "guns-blazing" approach to content deals. Content deals were made quickly with Verizon "Overpaying a lot" with estimates citing an additional $200M in spending.
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.
From the outset, it was not clear how Verizon might cut through the clutter. Much of its content was available for free on other platforms with a few proprietary extras from Viacom (MTV Networks) and some original content. Verizon claimed the social aspects of the service would help differentiate go90 but those features were already available on other platforms.
Advertisers had 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.
At a May 2016 Conference, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam admitted the service may have been "a little bit overhyped", backpedaling on previous pronouncements and the implications of major business and media investments.
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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- Third Quarter 2018 Financial Statements. Verizon Communications. 20 October 2018. pp. 22, 24. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
p. 22 "Product realignment charges primarily relate to the discontinuation of the go90 platform and associated content and other early-stage developmental technologies" p. 24 Two product realignment charges appear: $463M in 12/31/2017 and $450M in 6/30/2018.
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- "'Mr. Student Body President' on Verizon's go90".
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