Verizon’s attempt to reach millennials

Zoe Saldana
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As younger viewers move away from cable TV and towards mobile screens and devices, media companies are having to shift strategies to get in front of their eyeballs.

Enter Verizon's latest product, Go90, an over-the-top video platform launching Thursday that promises to provide millennial viewers with the content they want to watch, wherever they want to watch it.

"There really isn't a distribution platform for premium content for that audience," said Brian Angiolet, Verizon's senior vice president of marketing communications and digital media. "It's fleeing paid TV, and right now it's blowing out into the wind. We're trying to catch it."

It's true that how the millennial generation views content is completely rewriting the script. According to a survey by Animoto of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, millennials are three times as likely than baby boomers to watch videos on a mobile device. Forty-eight percent of millennials surveyed only viewed digital videos on a mobile device.

"Mobile is clearly the dominant consumption vehicle for content for that demographic," Angiolet said. "It's the dominant discovery vehicle, affordable, and it's also the dominant conversation. Also a lot of the content rights, we were able to pull together for mobile. It's a win across the board."

A pedestrian talks on his cell phone while walking past the Verizon Communications Inc. headquarters in New York.
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One of the biggest potential wins for Verizon in getting people on board with Go90 could be an uptick in its mobile subscriber rates. However, Angiolet is adamant that Go90 is a pure digital media play — with subscription being a bonus.

"I think if that's a byproduct, that's great," he said. "The overall strategy at the company is a much bigger ownership and flag in the ground in the digital media landscape. That strategy is represented by our acquisition of AOL, by our acquisition of content distribution networks in the past, in Go90, and other things we'll talk about in the future. ... This is more about branching the company out into new growth platforms."

Brian Robbins, the CEO of Go90 partner multi-channel network AwesomenessTV, said that his company sees 70 percent of its views from mobile. Robbins, along with Angiolet, actress and producer Zoe Saldana and Vice Chief Strategy Officer Spencer Baim discussed the changing nature of entertainment content on Tuesday during an Advertising Week event in New York.

"They are not going the other way, they just keep going higher," Robbins said to CNBC. "I think people are just more and more comfortable consuming content on their phones. When I watch 'Game of Thrones,' I want to lean back and watch it on my television set. My sons, they are extremely fine watching it on their devices."

In addition to Go90, Comcast recently announced Watchable, its ad-supported, free over-the-top video service meant to chase the same viewership. But, Go90 plans on separating itself from its competitors by offering exclusive content, including videos from partners ranging from the NFL to Vice.

Saldana, for example, is teaming up with multichannel network AwesomenessTV for her parenting project. It will be featured through AwesomenessTV's Awestruck, a millennial mom-focused network slated to debut late fall on YouTube, Facebook video and Go90.

Saldana said to CNBC that she sees Go90 as a one-stop shop for all video content, whether that's watching highlights from your favorite team or figuring out what's going on in your favorite artist's life.

"We as consumers are going to have that option," she said. "We get to curate the content we want, the news, everything. And, we have it at our disposal."

The actress said she has 10-month-old twin boys and often struggles with finding one place where she can find answers to her questions. She is hoping services like Go90 will be able to do that for mothers like her.

"Women, we are avid consumers," she said. "We're super outspoken. but we don't really have spaces where we feel we can get everything that we need. … My sisters and I we want to be part of that evolution, create content for women that is not just 'pretty-oriented.' "

Millennials push Verizon to streaming

Saldana's shows, however, speak to a major issue when it comes to addressing the millennial crowd. The demographic ranges across many life stages from teens to moms, meaning providing content for all can be tricky.

Still, Angiolet believes millennials all share the same core values, making targeting the group easier.

Go90's already convinced Publicis Group, which signed a year-long advertising contract ahead of public launch. A few months Go90 debuts, the advertising agency will get demographic and behavioral data from AOL's programmatic platform, One by AOL, which can be leveraged for mobile video advertising opportunities.

"We talk about millennial in a relatively monolithic way, but there's tremendous diversity: family, motherhood, fatherhood, all the way down to teens and tweens," Angiolet said. "But I think there's more in common with that kind of segment, like the value system around authentic content, the need and desire to share it, and to converse about it. We're looking for that sweet spot within that range there."

Note: Comcast is the parent company of NBC Universal, which owns CNBC.