Since at least 2010, companies have been pushing mobile-centric media and hoping that consumers will adopt the platform with open arms. Except that it hasn’t happened. The first major foray into this attempt was started by Qualcomm in 2006 when their platform was announced at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Originally named MediaFLO, it was intended to be a standalone platform that could deliver high quality programming directly to a mobile device. Three years later, FLO TV was launched as a mobile platform for AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Despite the best laid plans, the service was shuttered in early 2011 after Qualcomm quietly announced that they were suspending the service in 2010.
After Qualcomm, a number of other companies tried their hand at mobile centered TV, and all attempts failed spectacularly. MobiTV had to backtrack and remove their IPO in 2012 after an internal review found what they deemed to be “unfavorable market conditions,” and Dish’s own Sling TV which saw an impressively strong start and had them adding in excess of 250,000 subscribers has seen a marked decrease in continued platform adoption. The overall trend it seems, is for subscribers to demand TV on their TV’s while supporting a mobile platform, but by no means being only a mobile service. Dish has evaded some of this problem by allowing Sling TV to be viewable on computers, mobile devices, and select 3rd party platforms, such as the Roku.
While Dish can kind of make it work (and even that appears to be in doubt according to industry experts), mega corporations like Apple and AT&T are withholding the release of their streaming services until at least FY16 to see how the market reacts to existing platforms. Verizon on the other hand is deciding to go in alone. Believing that they can buck the overall trends in mobile TV, Verizon unveiled Go90, a mobile TV service that will be available to consumers as of September 28th. Named for the action of turning a mobile phone 90 degrees to view a video in landscape, Verizon believes that their video service will effectively target millennials and a younger audience.
To effectively navigate the treacherous mobile TV landscape, Verizon’s Senior Vice President of Product Development, Brian Angiolet intends to eliminate monthly subscription fees. He previously noted that “pay TV is in decline and that’s because the younger audience is finding different programming elsewhere.” Except that Go90 isn’t exactly free. Verizon intends to subsidize the cost through higher line access fees and paid advertising. Not to mention that Go90 will undoubtedly use a lot of data, and new subscribers will only be allotted a mere two gigs free for the first three months as a thank you for signing up.
Verizon may have a point when it comes to the viability of their new programming venture though. According to ZenithOptimedia, a media research organization based out of London, spending on mobile ads is expected to rise by 38% per year on average until 2017. But this doesn’t feel like a calculated move on Verizon’s part to give them a lucrative market share. Instead it feels like a last ditch effort by a company squeezed through competitive pricing wars with AT&T and T-Mobile and they’re searching for a way to try and gain additional subscribers without having to further cut prices.
The major hole in Verizon’s plans would have to be available content. Brian Angiolet may want to believe that “go90 users have curated shows that they can make into a common experience,” but when you unveil a new product aimed at changing the mobile media landscape, it might be wiser to start out with more than just a few available programs from select A-listers. Go90’s existing lineup of Vice, Comedy Central and ESPN isn’t enough to save it from obscurity considering that they have a more extensive selection of mediocre B & C grade content from MTV, AwesomenessTV, and a few select other options as well. Verizon should stick to what they’re good at, and ignore the Mobile TV platform.
By Alix Craw
Photo credit: bwaters23