Verizon CFO Touts Mobile-First Video Strategy, Stays Mum on Possible Yahoo Deal

Fran Shammo - H 2016
Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for 2013 Tribeca Film Festival

Fran Shammo spoke at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York.

Verizon CFO Fran Shammo on Thursday emphasized at an investor conference that the company's video strategy is all about mobile instead of traditional TV and declined to comment on a possible acquisition of Yahoo.

Asked about Yahoo more than half-way through his appearance at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York in a session that was webcast, the exec said: "I was waiting for that. Yahoo? Who’s Yahoo? Look, I can’t talk about Yahoo specifically."

But Shammo summarized earlier comments about Verizon's video strategy this way: "Eyeballs matter. Scale matters in this business."

Verizon is among the companies that have submitted bids for Yahoo. Shammo had previously only said that Verizon would be looking at a possible acquisition of Yahoo as the telecom giant considers "every single opportunity," but he has stayed mum since.

Verizon, after previously acquiring AOL and Millennial Media and last year launching millennials-focused mobile video service Go90, has said millennials are a core focus for the company. It also recently acquired a stake in AwesomenessTV, and partnered with Hearst to jointly acquire male-focused media company Complex. Those deals “position us as partial owners in the No. 1 digital media brands for young millennials," Shammo said on a recent earnings conference call.

At Thursday's conference, he summarized Verizon's strategy this way: "We wanted to be in a mobile-first video world."

Shammo said if people have 10 minutes of free time maybe five times a day, "we want to capture that" via Go90, AwesomessnessTV, AOL and its other offerings. "It’s mobile-first."

Asked if it was fair to say Verizon was not looking to build a Netflix competitor, he signaled that was correct. "It’s [reaching] eyeballs and monetizing them for ad dollars," Shammo said of Verizon's video strategy.

Discussing popular content, he said "right now, the Mexico soccer league is huge," adding that a diverse group of Verizon users was watching it.

Shammo has previously also warned about more contentious carriage negotiations between pay TV operators and content companies. "Obviously, the content providers have the leverage on the linear TV side," he told a conference earlier in the year. Skinny pay TV bundles offered by Verizon under the Custom TV brand help in that regard "by rebundling some of the content there," he argued. "This year, maybe next year, you are going to start to see more, I think, real conflict between content and linear TV providers and more maybe going dark and some content being dropped over time. I think it's just the nature of what's going to happen in this ecosystem."

Verizon has been touting Custom TV's recently rejigged offers, saying it has in the early going seen a higher take rate of 40 percent out of all Verizon FiOS video sales, up from about a third for the initial offers.