The Wall Street Journal reported the talks this morning. An Oath rep did not immediately respond to Deadline’s request for comment.
A former top ad sales executive at Google, Armstrong became CEO of AOL in 2009 and continued in that role after Verizon bought the diminished Internet 1.0 giant for $4.4 billion in 2015. He oversaw the integration of AOL and Yahoo after it too was acquired by Verizon, with the combined assets rebranded as Oath in 2017.
Generating digital advertising revenue has become a much more difficult task over the past couple of years as Facebook and Google continue to dominate the space, taking about 80 cents of every online ad dollar. Once high-flying digital brands throughout the digital realm, from Buzzfeed to Vox have been forced to cut staff and refocus their ambitions given the environment.
Further complicating Armstrong’s situation was Verizon’s strategic shift away from content and toward wireless services and technology such as 5G. Former CEO Lowell McAdam, who negotiated the AOL acquisition with Armstrong, handed the reins to Hans Vestberg earlier this year. It shut down its Go90 streaming video service this summer and sold its stake in Awesomeness TV, clear signs of its new direction.
Given the stop-and-start progress of trying to marry established (if arguably past their prime) content assets like AOL and Yahoo with Verizon’s 100 million wireless customers, many Wall Street analysts pushed for a spinoff of Oath. Execs at Verizon have consistently said that scenario is not in their plans.
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