Verizon's Go90 And The Impact Of Mobile-First Content Strategy

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Photo of Karol Severin
by Karol Severin

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Verizon’s free, ad-supported mobile video streaming service Go90 launches this week. The service will be available to all users, regardless of being a Verizon customer.

The product is aimed at 18-34 year olds, the key mobile data consumption segment of now but the appeal will be far wider than that. While Verizon’s content does reflect the 18-34 demographic, content deals with the likes of Machinima (a gaming YouTube channel) suggest that Verizon is very aware of the segment value of 8-14 year olds too.

Younger children are growing up only knowing a smartphone world, adopting mobile content earlier than more established digital natives / millennials. Go90 will likely skew younger than 18. This is of course good news for Verizon, because young generations are the future lifeblood of mobile networks. Locking them in early is key.

Verizon is going about it cleverly, not including its brand name in the product so as to reach wider audience. Free user monetization through mobile apps will be the fastest growing channel of the global app economy in the next five years. But advertising is not Verizon’s end game, subscribers are. If Go90 reaches sufficient scale, there will be enough opportunities to convert Go90 lovers to Verizon customers, mobile or wireless. “Remove adverts in return for becoming a customer, anyone??’’

Will Verizon Make Mobile Users Go90 Lovers?

Verizon understands that a successful mobile content strategy must be led by format innovation, instead of only engaging in never-ending and resource-draining exclusives wars. Instead of entire network inventories Verizon handpicked most popular content from Comedy Central, ESPN, NFL Network, Food Network, Machinima, Vice and will have some exclusive content too. Enough to entice the general public. The key is that the service is produced with mobile first in mind:

  • Deep integration of social media and networking: Mobile video consumption is a socially isolating activity. The small screen poses enough challenges, let alone if the viewers plug their headphones in. The family viewing experience now has fierce competition. This potentially affects things like word of mouth and group opinion creation. The social networking functionality in Go90 re-enables social interaction around video experiences. So instead loosing added value from immediate interactions, Verizon’s strategy simply shifts the interaction online. This is what makes social functionalities crucial for any mobile video service strategy.
  • Offering the right type of content for mobile consumption: Mobile video consumption is dominated by ‘snack size’ content, filling moments of dead time (e.g. commuting on the bus or waiting in the Starbucks queue). What mobile content consumption is usually NOT, is an ‘anticipated/planned entertainment event’ unlike watching a movie on TV. In other words, you will rarely hear your girlfriend say ‘shall we watch that episode of Family Guy on mobile tonight?’ Mobile consumption is mostly immediate, unplanned and short-form. Mobile video stakeholders must embrace the fact that certain content formats are more suitable for mobile than others. Trying to push mostly non-native mobile content onto the consumer via their smartphones will usually lead to exhaustion of resources and frustration. To build loyal mobile audience the nuances of the smartphone must be accounted for from the start.

Verizon’s strategy suggests that they understand all this and are set to make Go90 a winner. I look forward to see how this disrupts other initiatives that concentrated on making traditional content ‘available on mobile’, instead of creating a mobile-first content strategy.

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