The rumor mills are alive with word that Verizon is considering a joint venture or outright acquisition of AOL.
No, this is not some bad dream from 1999. The sources are “people with knowledge of the matter,” according to the Bloomberg story. These are code words for “a few MBAs have gone out of their mind.”
The first thing I thought of when I heard this was that Verizon buying AOL has a certain vintage, retro ring to it. It’s like Levi’s merging with McDonalds. Or maybe Kodak taking over Polaroid. Or maybe it’s like the 1980s supergroup Asia, where the players all sound powerful and successful on paper, but it’s not something you’d boast about listening to in school.
And that’s really part of the bottom line. In the world of mobile video, being hip is everything, and this just does not sound hip.
“Check it out, I just got my new Verizon-AOL video service!”
This deal has all the hallmarks of a disaster, no matter how much the corporate strategists and beancounters rationalize all of the inevitable “synergies.”
Let me come up with some more reasons why it’s a bad idea:
1) The deal is about mobile video. With hundreds of startups in the online video market — both content providers and ad-tech suppliers — why AOL? It seems like Verizon could spend $1B or less picking up some strategic video pieces and slap them together and have a better chance at being a mobile video giant.
2) Verizon is not a content company. I know, it has tried. It has content on FIOS. And cable companies are content companies. But the culture of Verizon and even Verizon Mobile is not oriented toward executing on the content side. Stick to what you know: Move bits and charge for them, lord knows you are charging me enough for moving my bits (Verizon bill in Demember: $340).
3) This deal sounds way too much like “Time Warner – AOL.” I know, it’s not even close. That deal was worth triple-digit billions. This would be a measly single-digit billions. But they sound too similar.
Sometimes when you are evaluating big decisions you can have all the data in the world, but if you are good at what you do it comes down to gut instinct. My gut instinct says this deal would be wrong.