An investment analyst from Frost & Sullivan, Dan Rayburn, has explained that Verizon Wireless’ go90 video platform “…almost doesn’t exist at this point.” Rayburn’s comments also included that the platform was “pretty much dead,” which is disappointing for Verizon after the launch in the summer of 2015. America’s largest mobile carrier reportedly spent $80 million at the time of the launch in order to market the new go90 video service, but it is believed that the company has spent significantly more on content. Unfortunately, this content does not appear to have captured the imagination of go90’s audience. To date, Verizon Wireless has released only a few hard or fast facts about how go90 has been used or adopted but there have been various reports explaining how the company has met with content creators and has admitted that go90 has not met expectations.
Last week, Verizon’s Chief Financial Officer, Matt Ellis, stated during the Q4 2016 earnings call that “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.” His other comments included that go90 was focused on “delivering timely, short-form versions of video clips” and that the carrier has observed digital video consumption “gain traction” in the last year. In other words, mobile subscribers are watching more digital video, in common with the rest of the cellular market. Verizon consider themselves to be giving customers a three-layered offering: they invested $4.4 billion on buying AOL in 2015, provide the go90 service, as well as “other content,” and are seeing customers move from service to service.
However, Verizon also laid off over 150 workers from go90’s technical offices last week only to be replaced with employees from Vessel. At this juncture, Verizon appears to be facing something of a dilemma. It has hired a small number of high profile executives from media businesses to head up their own stable, but it is too soon to see if these hires has helped. The carrier faces the decision of if is should invest more money into the go90 platform, running the risk that things do not pick up – but the company could also find that things recover should they continue investing. Verizon Wireless, like America’s next largest national carrier, AT&T, is busy investing into the media businesses. This is in stark contrast with T-Mobile US, which is concentrating on becoming the best carrier it can be without the distractions of running another type of business. Unfortunately, telecom companies do not have a great track record when it comes to building their own media platforms, which is something Verizon must be keenly aware of. The market may need to wait until Verizon makes a clear announcement about the go90 service and comes clean with viewer and subscriber numbers before it is clear what the impact of the service has been on the wider Verizon business.