How Will Getting Acquired By Verizon Impact Yahoo Sports?

Ryan Glasspiegel

Earlier this week, Verizon and Yahoo announced that the former was acquiring the latter for $4.8 billion. It has been known at least since last December that Yahoo was on the market, so since then it’s been a matter not of if, but when and by whom.

Any time the company you work for is acquired, there is a lot of anxiety. Shortly after the deal was announced, CNN’s Brian Stelter reported that many of Yahoo’s prominent media members were looking to jump ship, fearing cost cuts as well as “areas of overlap between Yahoo and AOL,” which Verizon acquired last year. Stelter cited names of “all-stars” like Katie Couric, Joe Zee and David Pogue who may not be long at the company.

For the purposes of The Big Lead, the area of most intrigue will be what happens with Yahoo Sports, which has empowered some of the best reporting and commentary in our industry. There aren’t many outlets that can boast a lineup like Adrian Wojnarowski, Pat Forde, Jeff Passan, Kevin Iole, and Dan Wetzel, to name just a few. The fantasy sports operations are also robust.

There is, hopefully, some good news on the Yahoo Sports front. In the Sports Business Journal, Eric Fisher wrote:

"AOL Chair & CEO Tim Armstrong, who will lead Verizon’s integration of Yahoo’s assets into the larger company, cited Yahoo Sports as a key asset arriving in the deal. Yahoo Sports last December signed a three-year renewal of its digital partnership with NBC Sports, a deal that created an entity typically ranking only behind ESPN in monthly comScore sports rankings."

CNN’s Stelter added:

"Verizon’s streaming video services could feature video and audio from Adrian Wojnarowski, the sportswriter whose basketball-oriented part of Yahoo Sports, The Vertical with Woj, has been a breakout hit. Verizon has extensive deals for NBA basketball programming. "

Specifically, Verizon and the NBA agreed on a $400 million deal last November. The go90 mobile platform features highlights, NBA League Pass, and other multimedia. It’s very easy to see the synergies with The Vertical’s content here, whether it be the daily videos they make, podcasts from Woj or JJ Redick, or even big projects like their Draft show — this was well received this year despite not having video rights, which the partnership with Verizon would presumably grant them going forward.

Verizon’s $1 billion streaming deal with the NFL is set to expire after this upcoming Super Bowl, but in February the New York Post reported that the NFL was looking to expand it. This will be worth monitoring.

Overall, we should be cautiously optimistic about how Yahoo Sports will fare with the Verizon acquisition. Given that Verizon has proven themselves interested not just in marketing on sports telecasts, but also in content, the proprietary information that has been Yahoo Sports’ bread and butter this decade will hopefully endure.