Verizon’s shopping spree in recent years has mostly focused on snapping up the last vestiges of the 1990s with big purchases of AOL and Yahoo. But now, the company’s CEO says, it’s ready to go bigger and more modern… and it’s not entirely picky about who it wants its new partner to be.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam made it very clear that he’d be happy to entertain merging with a whole bunch of folks… and yes, Comcast remains at the top of his list.
“If Brian [Roberts, CEO of Comcast] came knocking on the door, I’d have a discussion with him about it,” McAdam told Bloomberg.
But of course, Comcast isn’t the whole list. “I’d also tell you there isn’t much that I wouldn’t have a discussion around if somebody came and said ‘Here’s a compelling reason why we ought to put the businesses together,’” McAdam said.
Other companies he said Verizon would be happy to talk merger with included Disney and CBS.
Any of those three would give Verizon ownership over one of the big three major broadcast networks and all their related film, cable, and other media properties. But Comcast would also give Verizon an enormous amount of fiber network nationwide, to say nothing of the 24 million or so paying customers Kabletown currently has.
This also isn’t the first time (nor even the first time this year) McAdam has expressed interest in a potential merger with Comcast. Back in January, McAdam was heard to remark that Verizon was interested in how it could integrate a major cable operator into its future 5G plans.
Related: What the heck is 5G, anyway?
But major telecom mergers need to pass regulatory scrutiny from both the FCC and the Justice Department before getting approved. A Verizon/Comcast merger would almost certainly have faced stiff headwinds from former FCC chair Tom Wheeler, and probably the DOJ too.
While Wheeler’s FCC did approve the AT&T / DirecTV and Charter / Time Warner Cable mergers, it also shot down the proposed Comcast and Time Warner Cable joining back in 2015. Were Comcast to try again with an even larger and more influential company, like Verizon, it would certainly have faced at least a similar level of scrutiny to its doomed attempt to buy TWC.
But times change, and so, too, do political administrations and key players in D.C. Major investors, perceiving that the new administration is more likely to be sympathetic to their interests, have been giddily mulling over potential telecom and media mergers since a scant few weeks after the 2016 election.
Even without that change, though, we appear to be headed this way anyway, a UBS memo noted in November.
“The transformation of the internet into a mobile-first platform combined with the rapid migration of video from proprietary networks to digital and the rise in in competitive pressure this entails increases the value of an integrated fixed and wireless service to cable providers,” it read.
Or, in plain English: Phones are the internet, cable is the internet, and you watch media on the internet, so mergers are a-comin’.