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What is Verizon’s Go90 and why should I care?

The little-known mobile video service has been frequently mentioned as part of the rationale for buying Yahoo.

Verizon

With Verizon buying Yahoo, there have been a lot of references to Go90, a little-known mobile video service that the carrier debuted last year.

Though Verizon executives see it as a big part of the future, it has remained in obscurity amid a lack of big-name content.

Here are answers to some questions you might have.

What is Go90 again?

Go90 is a video service, made up largely of short-form content, designed to be watched on mobile devices.

Why is this the first I am hearing about it?

The content so far is pretty meh. But more critically, Verizon is overlooking the fact that there’s already a ton of video to get elsewhere and is maybe banking too heavily on the idea that young viewers will download another video app unless the content is worthwhile, which as we already said is just meh.

Verizon has, however, been trying to sign up bigger names, recently buying a stake in DreamWorks’ AwesomenessTV. It also has a deal with the NBA, but it doesn’t cover actual games.

Is it just for Verizon customers?

No, actually. Anyone can watch Go90. Anyone in the U.S., anyway.

Do I have to pay for it?

The current service is currently free for Verizon and non-Verizon customers alike. Beyond not having to pay for the content itself, Verizon customers can also watch Go90 content over a cellular connection without the data usage counting against their monthly allowance.

Doesn’t that violate some sort of rule?

Net neutrality advocates certainly think so. Verizon argues it is using a separate sponsored data program, FreeBee, that is also available to others. The Federal Communications Commission has yet to take a definitive stand, saying it is gathering data on how different companies are implementing sponsored data.

Will everything always be free?

Probably not. Verizon has said subscription and pay-per-download options remain possibilities for the future. In particular it has said it expects to charge for the content from AwesomenessTV and other partners.

The company has also said it wants to offer more original content and series and hired a former YouTube exec to lead the charge. Such efforts take money and advertising isn’t always enough to cover the costs.

So, what’s with the name?

It’s a reference to rotating one’s phone 90 degrees to watch video.

Why is Verizon even bothering with video, or AOL and Yahoo for that matter?

Building cellular and broadband networks is a very capital-intensive business. Telecom firms have long tried to be more than just a “dumb pipe,” offering content and services over their networks.

Mobile services have turned into commodity services, forcing providers to compete on price. That's good for consumers but bad for companies like Verizon. Hence the need for content that could set it apart.

But of the content already flowing through mobile devices, the lion’s share of the revenue goes to internet ad giants like Facebook and Google or content companies like Netflix.

AT&T, meanwhile, has dived even deeper into video with its DirecTV purchase, while T-Mobile is focused on Binge On, which lets consumers watch an unlimited amount of lower-resolution video from any number of services, including, as it turns out, Go90.

However, T-Mobile executives say Go90 is one of the least-watched of the services offered as part of Binge On.

“We get really great visibility into what’s popular and what’s not,” T-Mobile operating chief Mike Sievert told Recode. “It’s not popular.”

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.