Verizon taps AwesomenessTV exec for Go90 programming: report

Verizon has tapped Steve Woolf of AwesomenessTV to oversee programming for its Go90 effort, Variety reported.

Woolf had served as global head of networks at AwesomenessTV, a digital video company owned by DreamWorks Animation that targets teens and preteens. Verizon bought a 24.5% stake in Awesomeness TV earlier this year in a deal that valued the business at $650 million.

Woolf was in charge of business development, technical operations and partner acquisition for AwesomenessTV’s multichannel networks, according to Variety. He has also worked at DreamWorks’ “YouTube Nation” and Blip, which is now part of Disney’s Maker Studios.

The hiring underscores Verizon’s ambitious effort to expand its OTT video offering by recruiting video executives and adding content partners. In July, the nation’s largest carrier named former YouTube executive Ivana Kirkbride as chief content officer for Go90, and last month Verizon launched Stream Pass, which offers zero-rated live sports video streams from the NBA, NFL and other leagues through the service.  

Verizon launched Go90 more than a year ago, targeting millennials and other young consumers with an OTT video service designed primarily for mobile viewing.

The service appears to have struggled to gain traction. UBS analysts said in July that Go90 had gradually picked up steam but faced “an uphill battle” against established mobile video and social networking apps and services.

UBS said in July that Go90 had risen to #202 among free apps in Apple’s App Store in early April, but had since fallen out of the top 500 free apps. While UBS' analysis was limited to Apple's storefront, the firm said it has found that iOS download trends are similar to those in Google's Play store.

"With these rankings, we remain convinced that Go90 has an uphill battle if it is to become a meaningful competitor to the established mobile video and social networking leaders, namely YouTube, Facebook, Instagram (owned by Facebook), Snapchat, Netflix and Hulu," the analysts wrote.

Verizon views Go90 as a key component of a growing digital media business that includes AOL and is likely to eventually include Yahoo. Whether Verizon can capitalize on that effort is far from certain, of course. But the nation’s largest mobile network operator is clearly willing to bet heavily that it can successfully expand beyond its core mobile business.