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Week In Review: Verizon Puts Go90 Out Of Its Misery; Google Chrome Blocks Ads Now Too

1. Verizon Puts Go90 Out Of Its Misery

Poor hapless Go90 was finally euthanized this week as Verizon announced it would be folded into Oath, that vast morass of former AOL and Yahoo properties with a name that sounds like a Christian youth organization.

Why It Matters

Go90 started life with the best intentions. It was originally OnCue, the light years ahead of its time vMVPD and streaming box combo that Erik Huggers and his team had built at Intel. The one that used facial recognition to know who was watching so it could make better recommendations. (Which was sort of creepy, but hey, it was a start.)

A new Intel CEO had no interest in OnCue and so it was sold to Verizon because, well, at that time, they’d pretty much buy anything. Verizon struggled to figure out what to do with it but eventually turned it into Go90, which was initially going to be a combo long form/short form play for mobile users.

Only then Verizon ran smack into the reality that almost all the good reruns were already spoken for by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, and the ones that weren’t, were mostly being held by the networks and studios for their own purposes. (That’s a reality that YouTube Red and Apple have had to deal with too—it’s just about impossible to build up a library the size of Netflix, Amazon or Hulu at this point.)

Verizon also didn’t hire anyone with real entertainment experience to run Go90, a fatal mistake many of the new entrants into the field make and a frequent TV[R]EV talking point. You need people who understand how to make hit shows. Entertainment is art more than science.

Defining Go90 for viewers also proved to be a challenge for Verizon. Was it a YouTube alternative? A new network? Something else? Was it only available for Verizon customers? Verizon didn’t seem to know what it was and that seemed to prevent them from creating any sort of coherent marketing message, which, more than anything else, is what did them in.

What You Need To Do About It

Like OnCue, Go90’s biggest problem may just have been that it was slightly ahead of its time. OnCue’s enduring legacy is Sling and the rest of the vMVPDs that followed, since they proved it was possible. (Sling went in as a low-end service, while OnCue was looking at the high end, but the rights negotiations and all that were fairly similar.)

In many ways Go90 paved that way for Facebook Watch and the NewTV service that Jeffrey Katzenberg is launching. Both are very different spins, but they’re still short form video services that aren’t YouTube, designed to primarily be consumed on mobile.

So keep on eye on both of those: Watch hasn’t generated much buzz beyond the Brady lip lock, but Facebook’s got time and money. And Katzenberg’s idea of engaging the top storytellers to create content is a good one, but as always, it comes down to execution.

We’re thinking one, if not both of those plays will succeed. The question remains, which one?

2. Google Chrome Blocks Ads Now Too

Google’s Chrome browser is now blocking 12 types of annoying ads (popups, prestitials, and the like) and sites that continually serve up those kinds of ads will get a 30 day warning to makes things right or all their ads will be blocked, good, bad or indifferent.

Why It Matters

Google Chrome accounts for about 60% of web browser usage so, unlike Safari (4%), which also blocks ads, Chrome can do some real damage.

The 12 types of bad ads were determined by something called the Coalition For Better Ads and there has been backlash over the fact that Google created this group and seemed to dominate it, thus making sure its findings were in Google’s best interests.

So while certain bad ads are indeed blocked, Google’s reputation took yet another hit, not a good thing at a time when there’s a lot of noise about breaking up the GAFA companies. (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple).

Then there’s the fact that it only blocks around 17% of ads. So if you’re used to using AdBlock Plus, this is going to be a completely different experience, and our guess is you’ll be right back to Ad Block Plus.

Estimates have about 40% of people under 35 using ad blockers and that number is growing. Blogs aimed at small businesses continue to tout the benefits of annoying ad tactics because they’re often effective. Sort of in the way that annoying TV commercials can be. They may boost sales in the short term, but long term, they’re lethal for the brand.

All that is really good news for TV advertising though, because brands are going to continue to want to run ads in an environment where they will most likely be seen (even more likely these days, as the shift from DVR to unskippable VOD continues) and where better targeting and higher production values ensure a better overall experience for brand and consumer alike.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser, make sure you understand how many of your digital ads get blocked and how many are on pages cluttered with ads where they never get seen. Make sure to question your digital partners on how they’re measuring views, especially on web video, especially those three-seconds-with-the-sound-off experiences they’re still calling “views.”

And if you’re a TV network or MVPD, just make sure your sales team hits on the points above and reminds potential clients that there’s no such thing as ad blocking on TV.

And if you’re Google … try and stop being so obvious. We can see you. And so, don’t forget, can Congress.