VidCon: Verizon Executives Offer Glimpse of Post-Yahoo Plans

Verizon Go90 Product - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Verizon

Marni Walden, the executive overseeing the integration of Yahoo, made her first appearance at the annual online video conference to discuss Verizon's media and entertainment strategy.

With the closing of Verizon’s deal to acquire Yahoo, executives at the telecom company are starting to open up about their media plans. 

“Verizon is serious about this space,” Marni Walden, Verizon’s president of global media, said onstage at online video conference VidCon in Anaheim on Thursday night. In her first appearance at the annual event, she laid out the vision for Verizon now that it has built up a portfolio of media and entertainment assets, which in addition to Yahoo includes AOL, Complex, Fios and go90

Verizon, Walden explained, played a role in the growth of mobile video through its advocacy of faster wireless networks. Mobile, she added, drove the move toward over-the-top consumption and cord-cutting. And the role of these acquisitions has been to help Verizon have an upper hand as more consumers turn to their phones for video programming. 

Verizon is touting an audience of 160 million monthly mobile unique users and more than 1 billion total consumers across its portfolio of media brands. That reach will be important for Verizon as it looks to grow the audience of mobile video platform go90, senior vp Brian Angiolet told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Verizon’s presentation. He teased that go90’s video player will soon be embedded within Yahoo and AOL. “Our goal is to have an accumulation of media assets that gives us demographic diversity, geographic diversity and economic diversity,” he explained. 

Verizon launched go90 in 2016 as a free, ad-supported platform for original shortform video, live sports and television programs. Despite pouring significant resources into the app, Verizon struggled to grow an audience there, hampered by issues around the discovery of new content. Last year, Verizon acquired the technology team behind the now-defunct streaming app Vessel to redesign the product, and it has begun to ramp up marketing of its shows. Further, the company has refocused on a handful of core categories, including dramas, live sports, sci-fi series and counter-culture programming. 

Go90 chief content officer Ivana Kirkbride told THR that go90 has 25,000 hours of live sports and TV a year and 1,400 hours of exclusive originals. Go90 will begin programming this content differently depending on the audience, offering binge viewing for its mid-form dramas and week-to-week roll out of its unscripted series. “We’re iterating and testing what works best for an audience,” added Kirkbride

A part of Verizon’s media plans include the launch of a skinny TV bundle. The company is planning to distribute its go90 programming there, as well, Angiolet said, noting that a go90 offering could be bundled with the live TV service. Verizon isn't specifying when it could launch such a service. Noted Angiolet: "Right now our focus is about integration and taking the existing content and maximizing the distribution."