Verizon looks to offload media assets

Verizon has onboarded a private equity firm to help it explore a sale of its media assets, including AOL, Yahoo! and Netscape, according to a report.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal said the telecom is working with Apollo Global Management to explore a divestiture of its media assets that could be worth between $4 billion and $5 billion.

Verizon acquired a hefty portfolio of media brands from 2015 onward, most of which were struggling financially but had millions of monthly readers across them.

At one time, the brands included the Huffington Post, a progressive-leaning news blog, and the photo sharing website Flickr. Both brands have since been sold to other companies, but Verizon continues to parent a number of other recognizable media brands, including Yahoo!, AOL, Netscape, Compuserve and the technology blogs Engadget and TechCrunch.

The brands were initially incorporated under the standalone brand Oath. Many of them now exist under the Verizon Media subsidiary of the wireless phone company.

The news of a potential sell-off caught many Verizon Media employees by surprise.

“I take one day off from work…,” one employee wrote on the social media website LinkedIn above a link to the Journal’s story on the potential sale.

Verizon’s investment in the media space was intended to help bolster the phone company’s emerging digital advertisement business, but that investment has failed to develop any significant returns.

In 2018, Verizon began to eliminate jobs across the Verizon Media division and wrote down around $4.5 billion of its value, the Journal reported. That same year, Verizon sold Flickr to Smugmug; the following year, the microblogging website Tumblr was sold to Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. Last year, the Huffington Post was acquired by BuzzFeed.

Verizon is the largest wireless phone company in the United States by subscriber count, and the company is currently working to build out its next-generation 5G wireless network, which has lagged behind some of its competitors. Earlier this year, the company committed more than $52 billion to purchasing spectrum licenses at an auction run by federal regulators; the licenses will help Verizon reach more people with its 5G wireless service, and a sale of its media assets could help cover some of those costs.

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