YouTube TV service and Apple TV 4K set-tops will be included with Verizon’s initial 5G residential broadband launch in four cities — Sacramento, Los Angeles, Houston and Indianapolis — the telco announced. With the pacts, Verizon is looking to build a competitive edge in new 5G wireless technology by leading with video entertainment, delivered over the high-speed, low-latency networks.
Verizon is on track to be the first wireless technology provider to deploy 5G residential broadband service in the U.S. later this year, which will provide 20-50 times the bandwidth of 4G LTE technology and be a credible replacement for wireline broadband. As mobile devices become available in early 2019, the company expects to be first American carrier to launch 5G mobile service.
“We believe 5G will disrupt the entertainment industry further and are excited to provide our customers with the choice of the best network, the best content and the best partners,” Hans Vestberg, newly named CEO of Verizon, said in announcing the deals.
Verizon said specific details of the YouTube TV and Apple TV offers will be announced when 5G residential broadband service goes on sale. It’s likely that YouTube TV will be bundled for a limited time (e.g., one year).
YouTube TV, Google’s internet-TV subscription service launched in the spring of 2017, is normally priced at $40 per month for a bundle of 60-plus channels, including including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and cable networks including TNT, TBS, CNN, ESPN, AMC and FX, and local sports networks from NBC Sports, Fox Sports, and NESN in select markets.
The residential 5G wireless service from Verizon also will include an Apple TV 4K set-top, which provides access to dozens of streaming services — including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — in addition to a wide range of movies and TV shows from iTunes.
Verizon had been developing its own over-the-top delivered TV service but abandoned that plan in favor of working with other video providers, ultimately inking pacts with Google and Apple. Last month, Verizon shut down the Go90 free, ad-supported mobile-video service — after it failed to gain traction — and the company took a $658 million charge for the second quarter mainly related to the Go90 shutdown.
At the same time, Verizon has bulked up its play for mobile sports content, inking a five-year deal with the NFL worth up to $2 billion for U.S. mobile rights and an expanded pact with the NBA to offer out-of-market live-game subscriptions. Verizon plans to push live sports content through its Oath properties, including Yahoo Sports, angling to make itself the go-to destination for watching sports on wireless devices.
Vestberg, formerly Verizon’s CTO after serving as Ericsson’s chief executive, officially stepped into the CEO role at the teclo on Aug. 1, replacing Lowell McAdam. Industry observers viewed the appointment of longtime tech exec Vestberg as Verizon choosing to prioritize its wireless network business over a strategy built around original entertainment properties (as rival AT&T has done with the takeover of Time Warner). McAdam earlier this year told Wall Street that Verizon was “unequivocally” not pursuing any big media M&A deals.
McAdam last month telegraphed the telco’s strategy to team with OTT partners on 5G. “We’re not going to be owning content. We’re not going to be competing with other content providers,” he said in his earnings-call swan song July 24 discussing Verizon’s Q2 results. “We’re going to be their best partner from a distribution perspective.”
On the same call, Vestberg also referenced the opportunity to strike content deals: “I see only opportunities when we go to 5G, when you can build to connectivity platforms and applications, and sort of define where you’re going to play in that or where you’re going to have partners.”