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Verizon's Go90 to deliver free mobile TV service

Verizon customers get some video exclusively from the purely mobile mix of YouTube-like clips and on-the-go TV, but people who use any rival carrier will be able to watch at no cost too.

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Verizon plans to launch a free mobile video service called Go90 on Tuesday by inviting the company's young target audience to build a new business.

Go90 is free, supported by ads rather than paid subscriptions. Anybody, regardless of their wireless carrier, can use the app on their smartphones or tablets. It will play a mixture of traditional TV, live programming like NFL and college football games and shorter clips commonly associated with sites like YouTube. The company refers to it as "social entertainment," a hint at its hopes that the viral nature of some videos may help G090 spread too.

"More than ever, with the kinds of content that people are engaged in, their ability to be first to find it and share it is wrapped up in identity," said Brian Angiolet, Verizon senior vice president of consumer product and marketing.

The company is sending out invites to those it has identified as part of its target generation: young people known as millennials, generally considered to be around 30 years old or younger.

Verizon is the latest company to chase "over the top" TV, which is delivered via the Internet or mobile networks, as a way to appeal to mobile customers turning their devices into on-the-go media centers. The biggest mobile carrier in the US, Verizon faces bruising competition in its main business from upstarts like T-Mobile and Sprint. Go90 will help set it apart from rivals. For consumers, it's another step toward making video more accessible on the screen they're closest to.

Verizon's new mobile video service follows a Web TV project it bought from Intel last year. Sarah Tew/CNET

Go90 marks the first time some cable-TV content is available to watch free on a phone without a subscription, analyst Rich Greenfield said. Participating cable-network companies are making some series' episodes available the day after they air. For example, Viacom will allow you to stream an episode of "The Daily Show" on your device the morning after it's broadcast. Previously, such programming may have been available on Netflix months later, or it might be available on Hulu the next day -- but not to watch on a mobile device without paying a monthly fee.

"It keeps making it easier and easier to cut or shave the cord," Greenfield said, referring to the consumer trend of forsaking a pricey pay-TV package like cable for a mishmash of online alternatives.

Go90 marks the first time that Verizon will offer a service to everyone, including customers of rival carriers. The lion's share of the content will be viewable on demand. Most of the video will be accessible to everyone, with a much smaller portion reserved only for Verizon Wireless customers. NFL games, for example, will only be available for Verizon subscribers because of the licensing rights involved.

The service isn't meant to be a billboard for Verizon. It has no Verizon branding, and people who have a carrier other than Verizon won't get suggestions for videos they can't see -- there also won't be ads telling them to switch carriers to unlock videos they can't watch. "We don't want to create a frustration for you as a non-Verizon customer," said Angiolet.

Unlike other companies diving into Internet-delivered video, Verizon will make Go90 available only on mobile devices. Viewers won't be able to use a Web browser on a laptop or PC to watch, nor will the video be available on TVs connected to the Internet through a streaming media box like a Roku or Apple TV.

Go90 also won't cut anyone special breaks on the data needed to stream this video. Even Verizon customers will have this streaming count toward their allotments of data.

Earlier this year, Dish Network launched its Sling TV with small packages of live-TV channels delivered online for $20 a month, and Sony followed suit with an Internet-delivered collection of more than 50 channels called Playstation Vue. Cable provider Comcast is expected to roll out a free streaming service soon that focuses on shorter videos, those commonly associated with platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

Verizon's Go90 service is a mix of traditional TV content and digital-era video sources. Among Verizon's partners are Viacom, the parent of channels like MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon; and AwesomenessTV, a teen-focused video brand that evolved from YouTube. The National Football League is also a key partner, although free streaming NFL games will still only be available to Verizon customers.

Sharing is fundamental to how viewers will find things to watch on Go90. Unlike services like Netflix that lean on algorithms to suggest what you might like based on what you've watched previously, Go90 is set up so that you build your feed based on what you notice your friends are following and favoriting.

The service also allows watchers to easily clip a segment of a video to share via Facebook, Twitter, email or text message.

Go90 builds upon Verizon's purchase of Intel's never-launched OnCue Internet TV business last year for an undisclosed sum. It also marks another example of Verizon moving more into media, becoming a company involved with the content you watch on your phone and not just providing the utility by which you view it. The company will use the digital-savvy advertising technology it obtained through its $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL in May.

Update and correction, 9:40 a.m. PT: Added further details about the service. Also, the initial version of this story incorrectly named the creator of Sling TV. The Sling TV service is from Dish Network.