Verizon, having exited the original content business, is escalating its play as an aggregator of streaming services — including forming a new partnership with Netflix.
The telco unveiled plans for “Plus Play,” a platform to let Verizon customers discover, purchase and manage subscriptions across entertainment, audio, gaming, fitness, music and lifestyle. In a way, Plus Play (which Verizon styles as “+play”) represents an attempt to reinstantiate the traditional cable TV bundle for the streaming era, similar to what Comcast has done with streaming partners for its Xfinity X1 and Flex platforms.
The company announced the new initiative at its investor event Thursday. Verizon said Plus Play partners include Netflix, Peloton, WW International, A+E Networks (Lifetime Movie Club, History Vault, and A&E Crime Central), The Athletic, Calm, Duolingo, TelevisaUnivision’s Vix Plus, and Live Nation’s Veeps livestreaming concert service. In addition, the hub will let customers purchase and manage accounts for Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, Discovery Plus and AMC Plus — services that Verizon already offers to eligible customers for no extra cost (for varying periods of time).
Users will be able to purchase services like Netflix directly through Plus Play. Verizon has structured the deals to take a per-subscriber revenue share, according to Manon Brouillette, EVP and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group.
“Plus Play is a natural extension of our core strengths,” Brouillette said at the investor day event. The new service will “further enhance our Mix & Match plan proposition by scaling choice through aggregation — choice of connectivity, choice of device and now choice of content and digital services with added perks and offers in a one-stop shop.”
Brouillette said Verizon will kick off a test of Plus Play at the end of March with a select group of customers and streaming partners, with a full consumer launch later this year. Unlike with Comcast’s streaming add-ons, she said in an interview, the direct-to-consumer services purchased through Plus Play will be available on any device across any network. (According to a Comcast spokesperson, while an Xfinity TV or broadband subscription is required to access third-party streaming apps on the operator’s own devices, customers who purchase such services through X1 or Flex can also access them on any other platform or network.)
Verizon’s customer base covers more than 50 million households, noted Frank Boulben, chief revenue officer for Verizon Consumer. For Plus Play, “we will have specific marketing arrangements to leverage our direct-to-consumer base,” he said. Compared with competitors, Boulben claimed, “We are the best at marketing at scale.”
At the investor event, Verizon also announced a partnership with Meta, parent company of Facebook, to explore how the telco’s 5G Ultra Wideband network can work with Meta’s technologies and determine the “foundational requirements” for metaverse applications. Verizon said the collaboration with Meta will employ VR and AR cloud rendering and low-latency streaming.
In addition, execs said Verizon expects more than 175 million people in the U.S., more than half the country’s population, to be covered with 5G Ultra Wideband by the end of 2022 — a year ahead of its previous plan.
Verizon CFO Matt Ellis told investors that the company expects to generate service and other revenue growth of at least 4% in 2024 and beyond and to reduce capital intensity to below 12% in 2024 (following its massive investment in C-Band spectrum). The company will consider share buybacks when the company reaches a 2.25X net unsecured debt/adjusted EBITDA leverage ratio, slightly above its long-term target range of 1.75X-2.0X, according to Ellis.
Pictured above: Manon Brouillette, EVP and CEO of Verizon Consumer Group