Verizon Readies Its Own Content Deal After T-Mobile’s Free Netflix
CEO Lowell McAdam says the deal would be under the auspices of Verizon’s Oath unit, which is run by Tim Armstrong and was created from the acquisitions of Yahoo and AOL. The deal would offer something both for Verizon’s wireless subscribers and its FiOS wired cable and Internet customers. But in an appearance on Thursday at a Goldman Sachs investor conference, McAdam wasn’t giving too many specifics.
“Now we’re putting together some content deals that we like that will not only play across the Oath assets but play across mobile and play across Fios as well,” McAdam said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime before the end of September you hear about one of them anyway,” he added.
The tease follows T-Mobile’s (TMUS) move last week striking a partnership with Netflix (NFLX) to give its recent unlimited plan customers free access to the service. AT&T, which is in the process of buying HBO owner Time Warner (TWX) for $109 billion including debt, started giving its regular unlimited customers free HBO in April. And on Tuesday, AT&T extended the deal to customers on its discount, speed-throttled unlimited plan as well. AT&T (T) also gives customers a big discount to subscribe to its DirecTV Now Internet video service.
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Verizon probably won’t offer the same packages as T-Mobile, which said it has an exclusive deal with Netflix, or AT&T, which owns or will own soon the services it’s sharing. Verizon has a mobile partnership already with the NFL that could be expanded, though Amazon (AMZN) won the right to stream Thursday night pro football games online this year. Other major Internet services such as Amazon Prime Video or Hulu could be partners, or perhaps one of the online cable bundle clones like Dish Network’s (DISH) Sling TV or Sony’s (SNE) Playstation Vue.
McAdam didn’t mention Sprint (S), but the fourth-ranked wireless carrier has a partnership to give away subscriptions to music service Tidal. If Verizon goes in that direction, it could hook up with Spotify, Pandora Media (P) or Apple’s (AAPL) Apple Music service.
Hulu, Amazon, or some kind of NFL deal are most likely, according to Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “Most of the other video services out there have too narrow an appeal to be really compelling as add-ons for a large chunk of the customer base,” Dawson says.
At a time when analysts are concerned that Verizon (VZ) may be losing its advantage of having the highest quality wireless network, the carrier is looking to “differentiate from competition” in other ways, McAdam said, pointing to the Internet video offers from the other carriers.
“AT&T’s bundling DirecTV and T-Mobile is doing Netflix,” he said. “And we’re doing more with sports, and we’ll be integrating with our Oath properties as we go forward. So there’s lots of dimensions you can add (to) an unlimited plan.”
McAdam repeated a goal for the Oath business he’s said previously: to increase revenue by $3 billion, or more than 40%, by 2020. That’s still a relatively paltry sum at Verizon, which brings in $120 billion or more a year.