Verizon Struggles to Sign Networks Up for Online TV

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Verizon is struggling to complete deals for the planned debut of a new online TV service, according to people with knowledge of the matter who said the company isn't close to agreements for many of most-watched networks.

A plan to start selling packages with dozens of channels has slipped to fall from summer and could be put off further, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the private business negotiations. Executive turnover in Verizon's video team and internal discussions over the specifics of the service are behind the delay, the people said.

Verizon has spent months trying to obtain rights to networks for a live online service to compete with offerings from DirecTV, Hulu and YouTube that include CBS and ESPN. The product would be separate from Fios, a fiber-based TV package available parts of the U.S. The New York-based carrier had planned to introduce the service by late September, Bloomberg News reported in March, but meeting that deadline would require a flurry of deals.

Verizon is still working through its plans for the business, including pricing, the programming mix and the development of the technology. That has complicated efforts to sign up major media companies that are reluctant to come onboard without such specifics, the people said. It still could be ready by year-end, one of the people said.

Turnover in Verizon's media division has complicated the effort, according to the people. Ben Grad, executive director for content strategy and acquisition, left last week for a position at FuboTV. Chip Canter, a former NBCUniversal executive, departed in April.

Erin McPherson, a former Yahoo executive who joined Verizon in December, is handling the negotiations, according to the people. Previously she oversaw programming at Maker Studios, an online video network acquired by the Walt Disney, and was formerly VP and head of video for Yahoo.

As consumers spend more time watching video on their phones, Verizon has begun to invest more time and resources in media. The company acquired Yahoo and AOL for their large audiences and advertising software. It also developed its own web video service, Go90, which has struggled to find a footing.

While Go90 features short-form videos like those that users can find on YouTube, the new web service would feature popular TV channels such as CBS and ESPN. Verizon also plans to sell subscriptions to other online video services via an online storefront.

-- Bloomberg News

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