Verizon is exploring the possibility of teaming with AOL, per Bloomberg, via a potential acquisition or joint venture, though Verizon’s chief Lowell McAdam asserts it’s “not accurate” to say Verizon is having “significant acquisition discussions” with AOL. However, McAdam did not rule out the possibility of a partnership.
But what would a Verizon-AOL partnership look like, and why would the companies be interested in one another?
AOL and Verizon both declined to speak to Real-Time Daily when reached for comment, but it takes only an educated guess to assume mobile video would be the name of the game if a partnership were struck.
AOL has ridden the programmatic wave quite successfully, with its AOL Platforms division -- which houses the company’s ad tech -- accounting for 37% of the its revenue in Q3 2014, up from 12% during the same period in 2013. And the backbone of AOL’s programmatic push has been video, though the company does plan to launch a one-stop-shop platform in early 2015 for all programmatic buying.
But while video, ad tech and a combination of the two have served as AOL’s beacons, the company’s attack plan for mobile is harder to pinpoint. AOL’s programmatic one-two punch has revolved around desktop video and, of late, television. Mobile video has taken a back seat.
In fact, Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research, notes that “AOL has no unique angle around mobile” in general. “[That’s] why Verizon’s data would presumably be of interest to them,” he added.
Verizon has reason to be interested in AOL, as well -- namely in AOL’s ad tech. Other telcos, such as SingTel and Telstra, both made ad tech acquisitions in 2014. Telstra’s subsidiary Ooyala acquired a programmatic video ad platform in Videoplaza, while SingTel’s Amobee acquired Gradient X and Adconion Direct.
Additionally, Wieser notes that a partnership (or merger, or acquisition) with AOL would also beef up Verizon’s buyer-facing sales force. “Verizon has no advertiser or agency-facing sales force to speak of beyond the Precision Insights business,” he said.
In a note sent on Tuesday, IBISWorld analyst Sarah Kahn wrote: “Any Verizon-AOL deal, and even simple rumors of a deal, is expected to trigger a race among other industry players to invest their capital and research on mobile video consumption and advertising as well.”
Some have already begun the race. Facebook flourished in 2014 by betting on mobile and has placed its next chips on mobile video, if its recent LiveRail acquisition can be read into.
If there is fire beneath this Verizon-AOL smoke, its likely being fueled by programmatic mobile video.