Tim Armstrong sees the future of content is mobile. So, at a glitzy event that included performances by Snoop Dogg and Alabama Shakes, the AOL CEO pulled back the curtain on parent company Verizon's much talked-about free mobile service, go90.
"[The internet age has] disrupted just about everything in our lives and has changed the way we work, we live and everything that happens across the economy," Armstrong said at a so-called Future Front event tied to Advertising Week.
"Mobile is going to be a change that will dwarf the difference between offline and online," Armstrong said.
Go90, which launches Thursday on iOS platforms, seeks to help advertisers reach millennial viewers who are increasingly shifting away from traditional television. "Our consumer isn't just cutting the cord; they're never picking it up," said Bob Bejan, global executive creative director at AOL. Bejan said ad budgets have been slow to shift toward mobile. "We're holding on to some existing beliefs; you still see that when you watch the money flow in the upfront. There is still hesitancy in mobile."
Verizon has gotten one agency holding company on board ahead of the launch. In a massive deal with Publicis, worth $50 million according to the Wall Street Journal, the company's agencies and brand clients will gain exclusive inventory on go90 for three months beginning in the fourth quarter of this year and extending nonexclusively into the third quarter of 2016.
"There is a significant opportunity that sits at the intersection of mobile, video and millennials, and go90 was developed specifically to connect marketers into this interchange that is quickly becoming the primary screen," said John Nitti, chief investment officer at ZenithOptimedia, who helped secure the agreement for Publicis Groupe, in a statement.
Publicis will get first access to data segmentation capabilities and new ad units with full creative support from testing through launch and early access to Verizon and AOL data-management platform targeting in the first quarter of 2016. Publicis will also be able to track how well the platform is performing with users and any changes and new developments through AOL's new Head Start program.
At launch, go90 will feature a mix of traditional television content, with shows from the likes of ESPN, Comedy Central and Food Network, and digital video with exclusive content from multichannel networks AwesomenessTV, Machinima and Vice. Verizon will feature NFL content thanks to its existing mobile partnership with the league and also announced that Snoop Dogg will create and star in an original series.
Bejan said go90 plans to have more than 25,000 titles by the fourth quarter of this year.
All of the content on go90—whether it's shortform Web series, TV series or live events—will live side by side. The aim is to shift ad buying from the content toward the consumer. "We believe it should all sit side by side, which is the way the consumers are looking for it," said Bejan.
Verizon wants to bridge the gap between a streaming video providers like Hulu or Netflix and social networks. Users will be able to sign in and create a profile, which allows them to share videos and see what others are watching.
"The disruption that we've all been talking about is happening right now," Bejan said. "We're seeing the breakdown of the traditional media landscape. The control and power is shifting into the hands of the consumer."