Verizon and AT&T have both announced the unloading of major media portfolios that they acquired just a few short years ago. The moves unwind deals that aspired to smoosh old-school telecom pipes together with ownership of the content flowing through them. As some noted at the time, history has not looked favorably upon those kinds of deals.
Josh Benton, writing after news of the Verizon deal to dump Yahoo and AOL first broke, has some solid takeaways. His point about “media scale” vs “platform scale” should be of particular note for publishers. I’ve heard a lot said about achieving scale inside publishers over the years, often with an envious eye cast towards tech companies in the Valley. But those companies are playing an entirely different game at an entirely different level. Enough so that it’s just not a useful model for comparison. As Benton notes, “Trying to play their game guarantees you’ll lose.” Publishers need to focus on differentiating their products and knowing their audiences before they grow them.
Meanwhile, on the WarnerMedia side of things, one wonders if the recent stir caused by their soon-to-be departing chief will ultimately benefit incoming management. He broke a lot of dishes by moving towards the simultaneous theatrical and streaming release of Warner’s movies sooner than anybody expected. But that leaves his successors poised to reap the benefits without being the bad guys.
As for what private equity will do with the assets they’re picking up from Verizon, well, the Onion has that one pretty well nailed.