Verizon's McAdam: We're open to M&A talk with Disney, Comcast or CBS

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam. Image: Verizon

Verizon said it would consider merging with Disney or another major media company as it continues to look beyond its traditional telecom business. But it may not be so eager to join forces with a cable company.

CEO Lowell McAdam said in an interview with Bloomberg that the nation’s No. 1 wireless carrier would be willing to discuss merging with Disney, Comcast or CBS. Either Disney or CBS would expand Verizon’s media assets significantly, while a Comcast tie-up would provide a valuable fiber network in advance of Verizon’s rollout of 5G services.

“If (Comcast CEO) Brian (Roberts) came knocking on the door, I’d have a discussion with him about it,” McAdam told Bloomberg. “But 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.’”

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Both the nation’s two largest carriers continue to move aggressively into digital media and advertising as growth in the wireless and fixed-line telecom industries slows. AT&T launched DirecTV Now in November, unveiling a compelling OTT video offering stemming from its acquisition of the satellite TV service provider in 2015 for $48.5 billion. And earlier in the year AT&T announced plans to double down on its media strategy, agreeing to acquire Time Warner for a hefty $85.4 billion in a deal that would include HBO, CNN, TNT and TBS, as well as Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Bros.

Verizon, meanwhile, built on last year’s $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL by offering $4.83 billion to acquire Yahoo in a deal expected to close in June. The nation’s largest mobile network operator also made a slew of smaller media deals in 2016, most recently the purchase of web-video startup Vessel for an undisclosed sum, and it continues to pursue Go90, an OTT video offering aimed at young mobile users that has struggled to gain traction.

Shares of Disney, Comcast and CBS all inched upward Tuesday following McAdams’ comments, Bloomberg noted.

But Fortune reported Tuesday that Verizon appears to have become less interested in making a play for a cable company than it once was. The operator has moved aggressively to build out its fiber assetsjust this week it inked a $1.1 billion, 3-year fiber and hardware purchase agreement with Corningand no single acquisition would enable Verizon to meet its ever-increasing need for connectivity as it builds out its network of small cells.

“As we’ve looked at companies around the U.S., there’s nobody building to the architecture that we’re talking about,” McAdam told CNBC, according to Fortune. “From a fiber perspective, nobody, whether you’re a fiber company or a cable company, you don’t have the architecture that we’re talking about today.”

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