• Company plans low-key introduction, relying on social media
  • Service will target young watchers initially with free shows

Verizon Communications Inc. will make its Internet-based mobile video service widely available in the coming days, offering free shows aimed at young viewers, at least initially, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Go90 service -- until now in testing stage -- will feature content only from a handful of media partners including AOL, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s Awesomeness TV, Vice Media Inc. and Viacom Inc., according to the person, who asked not to be named since the information isn’t yet public. 

The service, which will show ads, is a pared-down version of what the carrier envisioned earlier this year. Back in March, Verizon was considering a subscription-based mobile TV service with programming from the four major broadcast TV networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC -- including live feeds and on-demand offerings.

Deidre Hart, a spokeswoman for Verizon, declined to comment.

In July, the carrier signaled it was scaling back the service.

“It won’t be the full entirety of everything that we contemplate within the product set,” Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said then on an earnings call about the company’s mobile video service. “It’ll be an initial launch and, as the year goes on, it will progress.”

Targeting teens and young adults, Verizon is hoping for a viral reaction as users find and share short videos via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other apps. In fact, the company developed Go90 to allow users to share video content easily via social media, the person said.

Verizon is trying to look beyond the maturing U.S. wireless business. The largest U.S. carrier is not only facing price-cutting from rivals like Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. but shrinking revenues in its landline business as well.

The company now confronts the challenge of finding an audience receptive to watching ads and short clips on small screens while competing with online-streaming subscription services from Netflix Inc. Amazon.com Inc. and Dish Network Corp.’s Sling TV.

Yet this is one reason why Verizon bought AOL Inc. earlier this year for $4.4 billion. The company wants AOL’s programmatic-advertising technology to use with Go90. Our mobile phones offer a window on our interests: information about our age, location, favorite sports teams, foods and travel patterns can be collected and marketed. That info can give Verizon the ability to target more relevant ads to us where we happen to be.

Verizon has been testing Go90 -- named for the act of rotating your mobile device’s screen 90-degrees sideways for video viewing -- in the past month with thousands of users. The company plans to introduce popular channels, NFL games and other programming in the coming year, according to the person familiar with the situation.

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