Now that Verizon Communications and Comcast have introduced over-the-top video services targeted to coveted millennial audiences, here comes the hard part: luring tough-to-reach viewers and drawing them back for more.
Both services hit the ground with some similarities — particularly around the types of content they offer — as well as some key differences in how consumers can access those services.
As for similarities, go90 and Watchable are starting out as free, ad-supported services that include some of the same content partners. Among examples, go90’s partners include New Form Digital, UphoricTV, ESPN, VH1, Nickelodeon, Spike, TLC, HGTV, BET, Whistle Sports Network, Collective Digital Studio, Defy, Vice, Maker Studios, Machinima, Tastemade, and Fullscreen, among others.
Watchable, meanwhile, kicked off its beta-test with about 30 partners, including AwesomenessTV, Buzzfeed, CelebTV, Collective Digital Studio, Defy Media, Discovery Digital Networks, Fast Company, Flama, GoPro, Newsy, Vice and Vox, among others.
Among the differences, go90, considered a “mobile-first” offering, will also offer some live TV feeds and start off with apps for iOS and Android devices.
Watchable, meanwhile, is currently available to anyone via a Web browser or an iOS app (an Android app is in the works). Comcast is also offering Watchable on set-tops to pay TV subscribers who are on the MSO’s IP-capable X1 platform.
Comcast and Verizon have not released any usage data following the recent debut of their respective OTT offerings.
Anecdotally, Google Play shows that go90 has been installed between 10,000 to 50,000 times. And go90’s iOS version has received more than 120 ratings on Apple’s App Store, with an average rating of 3.5 stars (out of five).
At last check, Watchable for iOS had 17 App Store ratings, with a 4.5 star average.
But one analyst believes that both services face challenges, holding that the audiences they are trying to reach tend to self-aggregate and most would rather seek content on their own, rather than relying on another party to curate their video menus.
“Generally, I’m not very bullish on the approach,” Colin Dixon, co-founder and chief analyst at nScreenMedia, said. “I don’t think the millennials they are targeting are looking for a curated experience.”
Still, both services key on a major trend: video’s move to mobile. About half of all online video starts will come via mobile devices by the end of 2015, online video publisher Ooyala predicted in a recent report tracking global video-usage trends.
Dixon said he believes both go90 and Watchable offer a sizable amount of interesting content, and was particularly complimentary of go90’s interface (developed in part using the OnCue assets Verizon acquired from Intel Media). But Dixon isn’t sold on the notion that the interface is enough to drive viewers to the service in droves, he said.
Vessel, the YouTube competitor co-founded by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, is also targeting young audiences, but it’s trying to set itself apart through a subscription option — for $2.99 per month — that provides users with temporary early access to a portion of its library. Thus far, go90 and Watchable are free, ad-supported services and have not announced any plans to add a subscription model.
Go90, meanwhile, hopes to differentiate with some exclusive content and access to some live events. Verizon said go90 debuted with about 8,000 titles, and 35 exclusive original series, a figure that’s expected to nearly double by the end of the year.
One possible “big draw” could come about if Verizon is able to find a way to extend its exclusive mobile rights to National Football League games to go90. “That might get people using the solution,” Dixon said.
One way Watchable is setting itself apart is by pairing its mobile apps, which are accessible to anyone, with the aforementioned integration with X1 set-tops, an avenue that’s limited to Comcast pay TV customers.
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