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Verizon Go90 mobile video service opens gates to public Thursday

After a short invite-only period, Verizon's experiment with a cross-carrier, mobile-only video service will be available in app stores this week.

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Executives from Verizon, video studio AwesomenessTV, and media company Vice and actress Zoe Saldana spoke about Go90 on a panel. Joan E. Solsman/CNET

NEW YORK -- Verizon's mobile-only video service Go90 will be available to the masses Thursday, after an invite-only launch three weeks ago.

"We've all been talking mobile first, but really, it's mobile only," Verizon executive Brian Angiolet said Tuesday at an Advertising Week panel discussion in New York.

Go90, a free ad-based service that will play a selection of short and long videos, will be available in the app stores for both Apple devices and those running on Google's Android software.

Go90 represents a new direction for the nation's largest wireless carrier. Anybody, regardless of their carrier, can use the app on their smartphones or tablets. Verizon has typically employed exclusive services as a perk for its own subscribers. Go90 is testing out new territory in other ways as well. Verizon secured new rights from pay-TV networks like Discovery and Viacom to play shows on mobile devices without requiring any kind of pay-TV subscription.

But Angiolet said Tuesday that content from digital-native media brands and personalities, the kind of videos typically associated with sites like Google's YouTube, is more important in the long term.

Go90 includes a mixture of traditional TV, live programming like college football games and digital-era enterprises. It will also offer NFL games, but they will still be exclusive to Verizon subscribers.

While the service is only on mobile now, Marni Walden, head of Verizon's new business unit, which runs Go90, previously hinted in an interview at the possibility of bringing it to Web browsers or streaming boxes like Roku.

The company believes Go90 sets itself apart by incorporating social aspects such as sharing and following fellow viewers. Prior to the public launch, the company sent invitations to Verizon subscribers who were millennials, generally considered to be around 30 years old or younger.

Zoe Saldana, an actress known for roles in movie blockbusters like "Avatar" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," said Go90's focus on the social facets of watching video were what attracted her to the service. Saldana's production company, Cinestar, will produce a series for Go90, Facebook and YouTube aimed at young mothers.

"Basing it on my own personal experience, I need tips, I want to connect and share when I watch video," she said in an interview on the sidelines of the panel.