Season Two of Go90's Streaming Hit MVP Plays in the Big Leagues
Anyone who's seen Shark Tank gets the idea. In fact, anyone who's even heard of Shark Tank gets the idea. On the right side of the screen is the person making the pitch, while leaning back on the left side are the people being pitched to. But the twist is that the pitchers here aren't looking for investment funds—they're looking for celebrity endorsers. And they're pitching to some of the biggest names in football, basketball, boxing, and hockey.
The show is MVP (for "most valuable partner") on Verizon's Go90 network and it's led by New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski, who's also a producer. Gronkowski's energy—half savvy entrepreneur, half big, friendly jock—is a big part of the series' appeal. The rest is a mix of odd products, big name guests, and bite-size editing that turns a standard network show into a snackable video break that can be consumed anywhere on any mobile device.
Season two premieres this week, and Gronkowski is as enthused about it as ever. Season one showed the production team what works, and what works is Gronk being Gronk. This season, viewers will get more of that than ever.
"You know endorsements have always been a fun part of what I do," Gronkowski says. "I’ve been lucky to have some huge deals, like Madden , Monster and others, but I’m always looking for new and exciting partners, and wanted to open those same doors for some of my peers, as well as let fans in on the process. When Jamie and Russ brought me the idea, it was a no-brainer for me, and I’ve loved doing it. The evolution from season one to two was great, as I got to inject more of my tone into the show, plus now I’ve had the chance to include a whole other set of MVPs as panelists. I love playing that role."
Jamie and Russ are Jamie Patricof and Russ Axlerod, MVP's other producers. Patricof is a 20-year veteran of the entertainment industry who's won Emmys and been nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes. He was behind The Daily Reel, an online video curation company that was ahead of its time 15 years ago, but his timing is better with MVP. His brother Mark appears on the show to help with deal negotiations. Russ Axelrod is a brand and marketing veteran who's worked with MSN, Volkswagen, Microsoft, and Kraft. His work with Verizon, which owns the Go90 network, led to a new avenue as a producer.
A few years back, Patricof and Axelrod wondered how they could feed the growing fascination in how business deals get done. Magazines like Fast Company and Wired showed them there was interest in behind-the-scenes looks. That turned into a show that explored how big marketing deals get signed. And that idea evolved into MVP, which Verizon thought would be a great fit for its young network. The first step was finding a likable on-camera lead.
"We were trying to figure out who would be a great partner for the show, and we felt like we wanted somebody who was the most high-profile athlete in their field, but also someone who would help create something entertaining," Patricof says. And that's how Gronkowski got involved.
Once the show had a name attached, it needed two more things: someone who could break up that boys' club and a variety of unusual startup products for the panel to react to. The show's other regular is host Arianny Celeste, a model best known as a UFC ring girl. A natural on camera, she interviews the guests and provides much-needed charm. Then there are the products pitched on MVP, which go way beyond deodorants and soft drinks. Startups have 60 seconds to sell their creations, which so far have included colorful socks, gourmet whipped cream, and a simpler shoelace. One of the more memorable products from season two is Swago, a men's cologne that comes packaged like a wet wipe so it can be carried in a wallet and applied when needed. Think Axe body spray with more convenient packaging.
"We had a company come on this year called Maximus Box, which is a subscription clothing service for big & tall," Gronkowski recalls. "Now you have to understand, I hardly wear dress clothes because it’s hard to find ones that fit. So here he is handing me a shirt, which I’m thinking has no chance of fitting, and it was perfect. So I asked him, how did you do that—and he told me he searched my clothing size online. I have to admit I was a little freaked out that some guy was searching for my measurements like that—and that they’re even online in the first place! That freaked me out, but I loved the shirt.
The short-form mobile video service will partner with T-Mobile for its April 2020 launch, but what that means is unclear. Can subscribers expect a discount?
Serving videos to mobile-first teens seemed like an easy money grab, but Go90 is the latest in a long line of platforms to never find an audience.
With Oath focused on distribution at scale and building an audience across platforms, a standalone video service just didn't make sense.
Verizon's free app-based video bundle for mobile-using millennials never found an audience. Now, the team behind Vessel will rebuild it.
Go90 viewers will soon be able to watch daily NBA highlights and some exclusive content, and purchase access out-of-market games.
The streaming service will launch on iOS and Android on Thursday, providing a millennial-oriented, mobile-first take on OTT video.