A+E Networks to Create Digital Content in New Verizon Deal

Verizon, which is looking to grow its online and mobile media brands, has reached a new agreement with A+E Networks that includes first-look access to original digital content for its Oath media brands as well as continued carriage of A+E’s cable networks on Fios.

Oath, which includes Yahoo and AOL, will work with A+E’s digital content studio 45th & Dean to develop and produce short- and long-form programming aimed at the millennial consumers who are not subscribing to traditional pay-TV packages.

Verizon will also continue to stream games from A+E’s National Women’s Soccer League games on its Yahoo Sports and go90 platforms.

With consolidation, cord-cutting and the growing popularity of lower-priced skinny bundles putting pressure on subscriber revenue, some programmers are looking to create original content for distributors as a way to add value to the relationship. Last year Charter forged deals with AMC Networks and Viacom that included the creation of exclusive content.

Verizon will continue to carry A+E cable networks including A&E, History, Lifetime, Viceland and FYI and Fios subscribers will have access to those network’s programming, including shows like Knightfall, Vikings and Live PD on mobile devices.

A+E and Verizon declined to discuss financial terms of their new deal, but both companies said they were looking to reach young viewers who don’t subscribe to pay-TV in new ways.

“We want to be everywhere,” said David Zagin, president, distribution for A+E Networks. The content company wants to work with partners like Verizon “to expand and create more awareness for what A+E Networks is capable of, both on linear side and the digital side, because we know that is such a growing part of the overall viewership of the millennial audience.”

Verizon has acquired faltering online brands AOL and Yahoo to cobble together a large digital and mobile media platform.

“With Oath, Verizon’s digital and mobile footprint is massive and you’re really going to start to see us work with content partners like A+E to bring great experiences to consumers wherever, whenever, and on a mobile screen,” said Erin McPherson, head of content strategy and acquisition at Verizon.

McPherson noted that consumer behaviors are shifting. “What’s fantastic is to have a partner like A+E innovate and work with us to continue to provide those experiences.”

As a mobile phone company, Verizon competes with AT&T, which is trying to secure access to content by buying Time Warner. That deal has been held up by the Justice Department.

Verizon recently cut a new deal with the NFL. Instead having exclusive rights to stream NFL games to its subscribers’ mobile devices, the new pact gives it non-exclusive rights to stream the playoffs and Super Bowl on its media platforms in addition to on its phones.

“We see sports to be a mainstay on mobile platforms,” said McPherson. “A+E’s sports content is going to enable us to continue to bring this kind of exciting love content to mobile audiences, which is so crucial. In the increasingly on-demand world, we’re finding people really aggregate around live sports.”

A+E launched 45th & Dean, named for its Brooklyn address, in 2016 as both a digital studio and an agency creating video and audio for advertising clients.

45th & Dean has partnered to create content for Snapchat and for Facebook. For Snapchat it created the digital series Second Chance and its first Facebook Watch series, Bae or Bail launched in September.

A+E’s Zagin said he didn’t have specifics on what shows would be produced for Verizon.

“If you look at what we’ve done with the production we’ve done for Facebook, there’s really a great opportunity for us to expand our relationship with Verizon with their Oath platform by utilizing our digital studio,” he said. “We’re going to work closely with them. We don’t want to just produce stuff and then find out from them that they don’t think it’s going to work for their platform. So we really need to do it in collaboration with them. “

The digital content on Oath will be ad supported, but it wasn’t clear which company would be selling commercials.

“I think it’s fair to say we’re partnering,” said Verizon’s McPherson. “Oath has particular expertise in scale digital monetization and A+E has particular expertise in other types of monetization and we’ll be in partnership on that.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.