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WTF is Verizon doing with its streaming app go90?

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Is anyone actually watching videos in Verizon’s go90 mobile streaming application? That question was posed to the audience this morning at TechCrunch Disrupt SF, and fewer than 10 people raised their hands. Yikes. It’s fair to say that Verizon’s* entry into the mobile streaming market — a means of competing with other over-the-top services like Netflix, Hulu or YouTube, for example — has been floundering since its October 2015 debut.

The app is only ranked No. 80 in the Entertainment category on the App Store, and is down in the 800s in terms of Overall free applications on iTunes. In other words, go90 has far, far to go to catch up with its streaming competitors.

According to Marni Walden, executive vice president and president of Product Innovation and New Businesses at Verizon, go90 has been very much a learning experience for the company.

“We’ve learned a lot. We’ve been experimenting with content,” she said on stage at the Disrupt conference. “We’ve found some things that work extremely well — live sports, live music, concerts work really well,” she explained. “We’ve had record numbers of viewers for not only the Super Bowl, but some of the NBA content and Mexican soccer.”

Walden also noted that some of its original programming, which it developed in partnership with Awesomeness TV — aimed at 12 to 24-year-old girls — did well, too.

But not everything go90 has featured has been a hit.

“Some of the other content has not done as well,” Walden admitted. “So I think we’re learning… I’m encouraged about engagement. I think we’ve learned a lot about content. You’re going to see us continue to work that model and get it right.”

Testing an app like this, and figuring out what works, is not something Verizon typically does, of course.

“This is a little bit different for us. I think you’ll see us be successful, but we have some things we want to change as we move forward,” Walden noted.

Verizon is learning not only about what works to capture mobile viewers as more of today’s consumers cut the cord with pay TV services — including Verizon’s own FiOS TV —  but also about the platform itself. go90 has been moved to the AOL Tech stack, Walden said, and is preparing to launch several new features in the future as a result.

The company has also been thinking about the distribution model for the content the streaming app features. Instead of viewing go90 as a central piece to Verizon’s streaming service ambitions, the company plans to distribute go90 content across digital platforms at AOL and Verizon.

Verizon recently tested this model with its original competition series, “The Runner,” which was pushed to AOL’s digital platforms. The series is one of Verizon’s most ambitious investments for go90 to date, thanks to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s participation, along with Adaptive Studios and Pilgrim Media Group.

“That’s really what you’ll see more of when you think about content,” said Walden. “We’ll take it across the go90 app, but we’ll leverage content across all of Verizon, AOL and soon to be Yahoo assets,” she noted.

That means you’ll see go90 content on digital properties, as well as services like Verizon’s FiOS, for example, and on mobile — especially as the operator moves into the world of 5G.

“You’ll see the content show up there,” said Walden.

*Disclosure! TechCrunch is owned by AOL which is owned by Verizon.

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