Downsized Verizon Media Pushes 5G-Centric Programming Lineup

Its media ambitions curbed, company's content arm aims to complement carrier's 5G focus

Verizon Media pushed a 5G-heavy programming slate at its NewFront this year.
Verizon Media

Verizon Media pushed a programming lineup heavy on 5G-enabled content formats at its first NewFront event since a companywide restructuring scaled back the carrier’s media business aspirations in favor of a more singular focus on building out its next-generation network.

The tech-centric slate included a “shoppable” Yahoo Play series called Hypezilla, in which viewers can use augmented reality to virtually try on featured products, and a mixed-reality immersive journalism studio in partnership with outlets like USA Today, Time and the Associated Press. The lineup also included more conventional offerings like the documentary 5B from Verizon-owned Ryot Media and a host of new Yahoo Finance podcast and video series titles.

“I hope there is no doubt about our commitment to Verizon Media Group,” Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said. “If you’re not excited about anything else, you should be super excited about 5G.”

The presentation comes after the carrier spent the past several months reorganizing its operations to prioritize the expensive transition to 5G networks and the markets its faster speeds are expected to unlock, while scuttling its previous vision of a vertically integrated media empire built on its Yahoo and AOL acquisitions. That reshuffling involved the installation of the company’s former 5G architect, Vestberg, as CEO, layoffs across the board and a rebrand of the Oath division that comprised AOL and Yahoo as Verizon Media.

The pitch kicked off with an explanation of how data collected from more than a billion users of Verizon Media properties like Yahoo Mail will improve the ad experience. Jeff Lucas, head of North American sales and global client solutions at Verizon Media, said Verizon Media’s platforms for obtaining consent for this data collection gives it a leg up on competitors like Media Math and the Trade Desk in an environment where regulators are increasingly cracking down on data privacy.

“One of our core values is to bring you performance and quality to help you reach relevant audiences, to help you connect with one or 1 billion, all in an environment built for brand safety,” said Verizon Media CEO Guru Gowrappan.

One of the presentation’s first prerecorded segments featured a special edition of Yahoo Play’s new trivia series with a quiz about Verizon Media’s ad offerings. Later on, another demonstration featured the star of the aforementioned Hypezilla, a purple motion-capture gorilla enthusiastic about sneakers and the power of 5G, who was played by an actor in Ryot’s 5G studio in Los Angeles.

“I’m coming to you in 5G, which means the data transfer that brings me to life comes to you in the blink of an eye,” Hypezilla said in an explanation of the stop-motion technology that was transforming the actor into the character. “So, this weird dude in a suit right here can be transformed into this beautiful creature known as Hypezilla so fast that you can’t see the difference.”

Presenters showed off an augmented-reality tour of Notre Dame from USA Today as an example of what can be produced with the tools Verizon’s new “extended-reality” journalism studio will give partnering news organizations. The company also touted how the studio access might be used to produce immersive content around the 2020 presidential election.

“All of this is built on Verizon’s 5G technology,” said Charity Elder, Verizon Media head of Yahoo News, video and audio. “Together, the alliance will develop and aggregate next-gen experiential candidate, including AR and VR, to deepen understanding of the issues of our times.”

Julianne Moore took the stage at one point to introduce the premiere of 5B, a documentary that covers the struggles of a group of nurses at San Francisco General Hospital during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the early 1980s. The company also brought up New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold to announce that Verizon will stream National Football League games on the Yahoo Fantasy app for the first time.

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