Disney+ Deal Has "Exceeded Our Expectations," Verizon CEO Says

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg
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Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg

Hans Vestberg at the UBS Global TMT Conference in New York didn't share user figures, but also said that “Verizon Media Group is starting to get really where I wanted to have it."

Verizon's deal with Disney+ has exceeded the telecom giant's expectations, president and CEO Hans Vestberg told an investor conference in New York on Tuesday without sharing user figures.

"It beat our expectations, even though we had high expectations," he said in a keynote appearance at the UBS Global TMT (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) Conference in New York in a session that was webcast. "It has exceeded our expectations” in terms of pushing existing users to unlimited plans and acquiring new customers.

He declined to share how many Disney+ users Verizon has reached or what kind of expectations Verizon had had. "I cannot comment on our figures, they have commented on their figures," Vestberg said. Disney said a day after the launch of its streaming service that it had hit 10 million signups.

The companies' agreement gives some of the phone giant's wireless and Internet customers a year of Disney+ for free. The offer applies to Verizon's wireless unlimited customers and new Fios Internet and 5G home Internet customers. Approximately 17 million Verizon wireless accounts are unlimited, and "a pretty significant number" of those are expected to take advantage of the Disney+ offer, Verizon previously said. 

Vestberg suggested Tuesday that the Disney deal can be a business model blueprint for other pacts, saying his team's focus on providing a reliable network was attractive to potential partners. "We know how to deal with great partners like Disney that have a great value for us," he said. And he said the Disney+ agreement is "not [simply] about reselling a service.... It’s a business relationship where they are gaining a lot."

Vestberg also discussed the state of Verizon Media Group, which includes the likes of AOL and Yahoo. “Verizon Media Group is starting to get really where I wanted to have it," the CEO said. "There were certain assets we didn't want to have in the portfolio, didn’t resonate with our brand values, we sold them off." He added that Verizon Media Group CEO Guru Gowrappan and his team "have gone from double-digit declines every quarter" to improving every quarter, and “our advertising platform is really starting to hit off." Concluded Vestberg: "We have come to a moment where we feel good about the asset. We just need to execute on it now." 

Vestberg last year was promoted from the role of chief technology officer to CEO to take over for Lowell McAdam, who later stepped down from his role as chairman. He has said that the telecom giant won't acquire a content company.