Verizon Q4 Results Include $119 Million Loss on HuffPost Sale to BuzzFeed

Telco's media division posts first revenue growth since 2017 acquisition of Yahoo

Verizon Media

Verizon’s sale of news and opinion site HuffPost to BuzzFeed resulted in the telco taking a $119 million charge for the fourth quarter of 2020.

In announcing Q4 earnings Tuesday, Verizon said the results included a net loss of $119 million “primarily related to the disposition of the HuffPost business.” When the companies announced the pact in November, they said the HuffPost transaction was part of a larger strategic partnership across content and advertising between BuzzFeed and Verizon, under which Verizon Media took minority stake in BuzzFeed.

The last three months of 2020 represented a bright spot for Verizon Media — which posted its first year-over-year revenue gain since buying Yahoo in 2017.

Total Verizon Media revenue was $2.3 billion in Q4, up 11.4%, which the telco was was “fueled by strong advertising trends.” In particular, it said, revenue from the demand side platform grew 41% year over year.

Verizon Media’s properties include Yahoo, TechCrunch, AOL and Engadget. The company completed its acquisition of the operating business of Yahoo for $4.5 billion in June 2017 two years after buying AOL for $4.4 billion. Verizon, which originally called the merged Yahoo-AOL group “Oath,” had touted combined reach of more than 1 billion online users. But even after several rounds of layoffs the projected synergies didn’t materialize and Verizon ended up taking a write-down on the value of the Yahoo and AOL deals.

Overall, Verizon reported Q4 revenue of $34.69 billion, down 0.2% year over year. Revenue growth for wireless services and Verizon Media was offset by lower wireless equipment revenue and “ongoing declines in legacy wireline products,” the telco said.

The company reported net income of $4.72 billion, down 9.6%, translating to earnings of $1.21 per share (excluding special charges including $404 million primarily related to severance and the $119 million related to the HuffPost deal). The results edged Wall Street analyst average estimates for revenue of $34.43 billion and adjusted EPS of $1.17, according to Refinitiv.

Verizon continued to shed pay-TV subscribers amid the sector’s ongoing contraction. The company reported a net loss of 72,000 Fios Video subscribers in Q4, for 3.854 million total at the end of 2020 (down 7.2% year over year).

On the broadband side, the telco gained 95,000 Fios Internet consumer and business subs — the most fourth-quarter total Fios Internet net additions since 2014. Verizon had 6.2 million consumer Fios Internet customers at year-end, up 5.1% annually.