Go90 to leverage LTE Multicast, but Verizon isn't sure how much

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) hopes to leverage LTE Broadcast technology, which the company calls LTE Multicast, for a significant number of live music and sports events that will program its new mobile video service, Go90.

Go90 launch party

Verizon's Go90 launch party.

However, the wireless company isn't certain how many LTE Multicast-capable devices will populate the Go90 customer base. Brian Mecum, VP of network for Verizon's West Coast operation, told FierceCable Editor-in-Chief Sue Marek earlier this month that Verizon has approximately 8 million devices in subscribers' hands that are outfitted with LTE multicast technology.

"We'll know a lot more in December, when hopefully we have a couple million users," said a Verizon executive to FierceCable during a Go90 launch event at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Thursday. The executive was not authorized to speak to press and is thus unnamed. 

FierceCable reached out to Verizon for official comment, but a response is still pending.

Verizon has already effectively used LTE Multicast to stream NFL games on its own network. The technology has enabled the company to reduce the heavy load on its network experienced when trying to stream live video to hundreds of thousands -- or millions -- of mobile devices. 

So far, the consumer base for Verizon's live NFL streams has included a high percentage of users with newer devices that are capable of receiving LTE Multicast signals. Verizon, however, is unsure what the LTE Multicast-capable device mix will look like once Go90's user base begins to take shape. Go90 will not only be available to Verizon Wireless customers, but users of rival mobile services as well. 

In launching its new streaming service targeted to younger millennial-aged customers, Verizon is hoping to avoid service interruptions for heavily viewed live-streamed events. The executive pointed to the network load issues being experienced by Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) Sling TV service on an almost weekly basis.

Sympathizing with Sling engineers, the Verizon official said it's difficult to know before launching such a streaming service how robustly network infrastructure must be built out. However, he said Verizon's confident that its 2013 acquisition of the EdgeCast content delivery network, as well as its purchase of Cisco's OnCue video streaming assets, have given it the horsepower it needs to effectively launch Go90.

While Verizon executives continue to ponder the engineering specifics of their new mobile video service, there's also discussion of the business model. Go90 officially launched Thursday, and is exclusively supported by programmatic advertising driven by the assets acquired by Verizon's $4.4 billion purchase of AOL this spring.

The Verizon rep said the company is open to trying other models, but again is waiting to see initial feedback from at least a few months of usage. He said he's not an advocate of a subscription-based model. Go90's young target market, he explained, has too many other free video options to compete with.

"Again, we'll know a lot more in December," he said.

As Verizon officials celebrated the launch of Go90 with an outdoor party that featured a Between Two Ferns performance by Funny or Die comedian Zach Galifianakis, Verizon quietly added more programming to Go90's content menu.

According to Variety, Verizon has made a deal with studio New Form Digital to develop and produce six scripted series for the soon-to-launch mobile entertainment service.

Go90, which is named after the 90-degree tilt of a smartphone for viewing mobile video, has recently announced that it signed a multi-year deal with Vice Media to bring Vice's content to the service. Verizon has also pledged to offer 200 hours of original programming from YouTube video specialist AwesomenessTV, sports programming from ESPN and CBS Sports, and made-for-cable reality series from Scripps Interactive Networks.

For more:
- read this Variety story

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