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Verizon’s TV strategy sounds like a mess

Published Dec 11th, 2017 3:46PM EST
Verizon streaming TV
Image: Amendola/AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Thanks to those gosh-darn millenials’ refusal to pay $100 a month for a cable package, the traditional TV industry is going through a tough time right now. Pay TV packages are being dropped faster than ever before, and new cord-cutting cable alternatives are popping up every months.

Now, some companies are responding to this with a coherent strategy for 21st century media: AT&T’s DirecTV Now online streaming service has hit a million subscribers in its first year of operation, thanks to the low price (and unsustainably good deals for other AT&T customers). But Verizon? Well, that’s a very different story.

DSL Reports is quoting sources as saying that Verizon’s long-awaited IPTV service — basically, cable that uses the internet rather than a coax cable to communicate with a set-top box — has been cancelled, even though it was months into beta testing and seemingly ready to go live. “The IPTV product was officially canceled,” a source told DSL Reports. “Employees received an email on Tuesday (12/5) instructing those involved in the trial to choose new packages and schedule a subsequent tech visit to remove and replace the STB’s.”

Verizon is also reportedly considering a dedicated live TV streaming service to rival DirecTV Now (and get the company’s foot in the door before it’s too late), but execs can’t agree on what the service should look like. At the same time, Verizon already has a streaming app, called Go90. It launched in October 2015 amid much fanfare, and was supposed to be a free, ad-supported video platform for sports, original series, and traditional TV programming. But less than a year after launch, Verizon’s own content partners were calling it a “dud” that was “far, far worse” than anyone expected.

It looked like Verizon was ready to cut and run from Go90 earlier this year, when it cut 155 members of staff from Go90’s main office. But just this morning, Verizon inked a $1.5-billion, five-year deal giving it the right to broadcast NFL games on mobile devices, primarily through the Go90 app. But even this isn’t Verizon throwing its weight back behind Go90: The deal is going to see Verizon showing NFL games across a bunch of platforms, including the recently-acquired Yahoo Sports, Go90, and NFL Mobile. The games will be free for anyone, changing Verizon’s previous policy of only showing games to Verizon subscribers.

So what’s Verizon’s strategy here? It doesn’t have a proper live TV streaming service, but it’s continuing to spend billions on content for go90, a non-subscription platform that even its own partners say is worthless. In the meantime, it’s still trying to coax life from Yahoo, while also spending serious R&D dollars on developing an IPTV platform before throwing it all away.

This isn’t a simple problem for cable giants to solve: Cord-cutting is an existential threat to the incredibly profitable regional cable monopolies that have existed for the last 40 years, and no established telecoms company has worked out how to transition to the modern age without shedding subscribers and profits.

But whatever the solution does turn out to be, I can promise you one thing: Right now, Verizon isn’t a part of it.

Chris Mills
Chris Mills News Editor

Chris Mills has been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, starting at Future Publishing, Gawker Media, and then BGR. He studied at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.

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