Shift Presents Better Distribution Op for Partners, go90 Ditches Sub-Brands, Serves as Feeder Brand into Verizon-owned OATH brands, Re-Ups Output Deals with Complex and AwesomenessTV
When we surveyed our readers at the beginning of 2018, 50% believed Verizon would shut down its mobile-first streaming service go90 by the end of the year. Not exactly the vote of confidence you’d expect for a company that has invested billions into refining its tech and content mix over the last 3 years to make it more enticing to consumers. Despite bringing on Ivana Kirkbride and former Hulu CTO Rich Tom, the company has struggled to grow meaningful audience. As a result, the future for go90 is looking more and more bleak as executives close to the company claim the teams (across FiOS, go90, RYOT, OATH, Yahoo) are completely disorganized and unclear about who’s handling what at Verizon’s video and media brands. And to fuel rumors that go90 is distressed, the team has recently been briefing its partners about a new “focus on OATH brands,” versus go90 as a platform.
Starting at the top of the year, the LA-based executive team began informing its partners that go90 would no longer be the primary brand of focus; instead, the brand would serve as a feeder into the larger brands housed under the recently-formed OATH, including Yahoo, Yahoo Sports and AOL’s owned-and-operated properties. The news was confirmed today by OATH CEO Tim Armstrong.
According to sources close the company, the redirection is “all part of natural integration” and will provide greater opportunities for go90 and OATH partners as they will now gain extra reach across all platforms. And those partners can expect deals that look more like the A&E deal that Verizon announced last month — with distribution of titles across FiOS, go90 and OATH brands. For now, Tim Armstrong says “the brand will remain” but doesn’t “know how long for.”
Many of the partners we’ve spoken to claim that there are much bigger changes afoot at Verizon and for OATH specifically, including an entirely new video unit akin to AOL Studios, an original production arm of AOL meant too service AOL’s brands. Afterall, the company did announce OATH Studios recently. But, some claim that Tim Armstrong has been resistant to a side-by-side role with Brian Angiolet, who led go90 from its early inception and has been criticized for sloppy content deals; and that Armstrong is pushing to lead all operations relevant for OATH and video. Under his leadership would be Erin McPherson, who has been charged with locking in broadcast and sports-related deals, Victoria Parker — Head of Creative Strategy at OATH Studios, Abra Parker, Head of Talent Relations and Strategy at Oath/Verizon, RYOT Studios — the branded entertainment and VR teams, and now go90.
While Armstrong claims that “go90 was a super ambitious project” those internally point to the renewal of its output deals with Complex Networks and Awesomeness TV as supportive signals for the message that go90 is still committed to production.
So what does it mean for current and future partners?
In a nutshell — better marketing and audience reach. Rather than spending upwards of $75 million into marketing, according to one source, for a no-name brand, now go90 will leverage the cumulative reach of the other brands, which “should be seen as a great thing, not a drawback,” said one partner.
And as far as the future for go90 as a standalone entity? Well, that may be yet another prediction VideoInk lands correctly.