Verizon became the second U.S. wireless carrier to offer sponsored data on Tuesday, with the introduction of its FreeBee Data service.
According to Verizon, the service comes in two models, FreeBee Data and FreeBee Data 360. The standard FreeBee Data model allows content providers to sponsor “specific consumer actions on a per-click basis” so that those actions are not charged to a consumer’s data allowance. FreeBee Data 360, on the other hand, allows content providers to provide some or all of a customer’s mobile content, both in apps and mobile websites, without counting against the consumer’s data allowance.
Verizon said the latter service, FreeBee Data 360, will be available as a commercial beta product starting today.
A beta trial of the per-click FreeBee Data service begin on Monday, Jan. 25. Hearst Magazines, AOL and GAMEDAY will all participate in the trial, which will sponsor select mobile content for 1,000 test subscribers. The per-click FreeBee Data model is expected to become commercially available later this year, Verizon said.
“With 1 in 3 Americans now watching videos on their smartphone, and another 100 million on tablets, the business case for mobile is clear,” Verizon’s vice president of Consumer Products Colson Hillier said. “In today’s digital economy, FreeBee Data is a departure from the one size fits all approach to marketing. The opportunity to add value and utility to consumers’ everyday experiences will fundamentally transform how brands and businesses connect with their customers.”
According to Verizon’s product page, FreeBee Data content can include mobile video clips, audio streaming, websites, apps and app downloads. Sponsored data comes with an in-session notification banner, which carries the sponsor’s name, to let wireless users know they will not incur data charges on that content.
Sponsors will also have access to a customizable dashboard to help them track the performance of their campaign through analytics. Verizon said reporting tools will include a feature that allows sponsors to track clicks on individual links to see where customers are responding to their FreeBee Data offers. If a given campaign isn’t working, Verizon said sponsors will be able to “freeze it” or transition their marketing dollars to a different campaign.
Pricing for the 360 product is billed using a per gigabyte model, Verizon said. Clients using the standard FreeBee Data service are charged a “per-click fee” every time someone clicks on their sponsored data content.
Verizon’s move follows AT&T’s trailblazing in the sponsored data ring.
In January 2014 at the Consumer Electronics show, AT&T announced its sponsored data program, which allowed advertisers to subsidize data for end users consuming select content.
At the time, AT&T described the service as “similar to 1-800 phone numbers or free shipping for internet commerce.” Under AT&T’s sponsored data service, data charges resulting from eligible uses are billed directly to the sponsoring company.
In December, a Verizon executive told Re/code that the tier-1 carrier had developed similar capabilities and was planning to roll out the service in 2016.