|Bid||60.27 x 900|
|Ask||60.34 x 2200|
|Day's Range||59.97 - 60.38|
|52 Week Range||52.28 - 61.58|
|Beta (3Y Monthly)||0.47|
|PE Ratio (TTM)||15.75|
|Earnings Date||Oct 25, 2019|
|Forward Dividend & Yield||2.46 (4.10%)|
|1y Target Est||60.52|
Verizon and the NFL today announced Colorfiction and Juncture Media as the two Verizon 5G NFL Mobile Gaming Challenge winners. The challenge called on U.S.-based game developers to create a football-themed mobile game that harnesses the power of Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband on consumer devices. The two game developers will each receive $400,000, access to Verizon 5G Labs and 5G technology.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson seems to be coming around to the right idea that the wireless carrier would be better off without its shrinking DirecTV business. Oddly enough, his decision could hinge on a legal trial in December that has little to do with his company but everything to do with how far antitrust regulators can be pushed in the Trump administration.It was the $67 billion takeover of DirecTV four years ago that first turned AT&T into a diversified communications conglomerate. Stephenson overpaid and underestimated how quickly the satellite-TV service would lose subscribers to cheaper online alternatives. With AT&T now squarely focused on expanding its 5G wireless network and integrating HBO and the other WarnerMedia assets it acquired last year, the company is finally considering parting ways with DirecTV, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing unidentified sources. The pivot comes as activist investor Elliott Management Corp. puts pressure on Stephenson and AT&T’s board to streamline its operations. I explained in January how a sale of DirecTV might help AT&T pay down its mountain of debt more quickly and remove a cloud over its stock price. AT&T also has far too many pay-TV products, and it’s already started to play down the DirecTV brand by changing the name of DirecTV Now, a skinny live-TV streaming platform, to AT&T TV Now:One option is spinning off the unit into a separate publicly traded entity, though it’s hard to see the appeal for investors of a stand-alone DirecTV. It wouldn’t have the same advantages AT&T gets through its scale and simultaneous control of popular programming. For example, HBO went dark on Dish Network Corp.’s satellite-TV services last year because of a carriage dispute between the companies, leaving many HBO fans the choice to either switch to DirecTV or subscribe to the HBO Now app for $15 a month — both properties of AT&T. DirecTV has also lost customers rapidly while turning to desperate price increases to shore up profit margins.AT&T’s other option for unloading DirecTV is to combine the business with Dish, which is beset by the same industry challenges. Charlie Ergen, the billionaire who controls Dish, said in an interview in July that he sees “industrial logic” for putting the two together. They could substantially cut costs, and the added cash flow would aid Ergen in his efforts to build a nationwide wireless network.Regulatory friction is seen as the biggest obstacle to a DirecTV-Dish merger, with Reuters reporting Wednesday that the companies aren’t discussing a deal for that reason. But the way I see it, Stephenson and Ergen may just be awaiting the outcome of T-Mobile US Inc.’s attempt to buy Sprint Corp., as I wrote in June. Should that deal proceed, it would set a precedent for allowing the merger of two direct competitors in a highly concentrated market. So far, T-Mobile and Sprint — the No. 3 and No. 4 U.S. wireless carriers, respectively, behind AT&T and Verizon Communications — have received clearance from both the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division and the Federal Communications Commission. However, 18 state attorneys general — and counting — have joined a lawsuit to block the transaction on the grounds that it will lead to higher prices for consumers, discourage industry innovation and hurt workers. The trial is set to begin Dec. 9.(1) A triumph by the companies may embolden Stephenson and Ergen. They could even argue that the pay-TV market isn’t as concentrated, with numerous new streaming-TV apps posing competition to the traditional distributors. Walt Disney Co. has constructed a $13-a-month bundle for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ that almost rivals denser cable-TV packages in content, and certainly does in price. The wild card, of course, is President Donald Trump. It’s been reported that he tried meddling in AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner, a unit now called WarnerMedia, because of personal grievances with the news network CNN, one of the assets AT&T inherited in the deal. As for DirecTV and Dish, “the biggest ‘regulatory’ obstacle may be the president and his undying desire to punish CNN,” analysts for New Street Research wrote in a report Thursday. Stephenson said in December 2016, when AT&T was integrating the DirecTV purchase, “We did DirecTV not because we love satellite technology, but because it gave us access to some premium content.” It’s a refrain both he and his deputy and heir apparent, John Stankey, have repeatedly recited. But the subsequent $102 billion acquisition of WarnerMedia gave AT&T all the premium content it needs. DirecTV is just a distraction now. (1) Ergen also plays a key role in the T-Mobile-Sprint merger trial. The carriers were required by the Justice Department to divest certain assets to Dish so that it can enter the wireless market and foster competition.To contact the author of this story: Tara Lachapelle at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Niemi at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the business of entertainment and telecommunications, as well as broader deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T (T) states that investors should expect share buybacks to be added to the mix of the company's capital allocation approach.
NEW YORK, Sept. 18, 2019 -- Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO for Verizon, is scheduled to speak at Goldman Sachs 28th Annual Communacopia Conference on Thursday, September 19,.
Verizon Communications (VZ) closed the most recent trading day at $59.50, moving -0.77% from the previous trading session.
As the wireless industry rolls out the 5G technology, the latest network deployment is triggering demand for tower leasing which looks encouraging for the days ahead.
The media business has always been about frenemies and evolving alliances which makes for tricky navigation even in quiescent times.
While Qualcomm (QCOM) is planning to develop cheap 5G chipsets for the masses, CenturyLink (CTL) aims to strengthen its position in the content delivery network with the acquisition of Steamroot.
Verizon ranks highest for customer satisfaction with small/medium business and very small business among wireline service providers according to J.D. Power. It’s the third year.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Europe is getting its own version of Softbank Group Corp. with the Amsterdam listing of tech investment firm Prosus NV. The move will likely help it avoid the fate of Yahoo Inc., the erstwhile Silicon Valley titan which has since fizzled away as a holding company.South African media and internet firm Naspers Ltd. has spun most of its technology investment out into Prosus. That new company, like its parent (which retains a stake of more than 73%), derives almost all of its 121 billion-euro ($133 billion) market capitalization from a 31% stake in Tencent Holdings Ltd., the Chinese internet behemoth behind WeChat. That’s much like Softbank, which trades at a discount to its investment in China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.Bob van Dijk, the chief executive of both Prosus and Naspers, intended the Amsterdam listing to reduce the discount to the $131 billion value of the Tencent investment.Naspers came to constitute about 20% of the Johannesburg stock exchange; that means index funds had to sell shares in order to meet limitations about concentrating too much ownership in one stock. The stock started to underperform Tencent shares the moment it exceeded a 10% weighting, as Bloomberg Intelligence analyst John Davies has pointed out.On that basis, the listing has so far been a success. When Naspers announced the spin-off in March, it was trading at a near 30% discount to its Tencent stake, taking into account its net cash position. Now Prosus is trading at a discount of just 3% to its Tencent shares, net of cash but not including other investments.Prosus is home to more than just the Tencent stake. It houses most of the technology investments made by Naspers, including stakes in Delivery Hero AG, Mail.Ru Group Ltd. and PayU. The value of the publicly-traded entities alone is 4.1 billion euros. Including these, Prosus still has a discount of perhaps 20% to its sum-of-the-parts valuation.The question for van Dijk and his team remains to what extent they can break the stock’s lockstep with the Tencent share price. If they can’t, then Prosus risks becoming little more than a proxy investment, and follow the fate of Yahoo.That American firm, after selling its eponymous internet assets to Verizon Communications Inc. in 2017, rebranded as Altaba Inc., and became a holding company for investments in Alibaba and Yahoo Japan Corp. Their combined value persistently exceeded Altaba’s valuation by some 25%. It is now dissolving those holdings and shutting up shop.Some sort of mark down is always likely to be the case, partially because Prosus shareholders, like those of Altaba, have no real say in the running of the firm’s biggest investment. Tencent management is after all not directly accountable to Prosus investors. And there continue to be overhanging concerns about governance, as I have written before.Given all that, the relatively slim Prosus discount – compared to Altaba, at least – suggests investors are in fact affording some value to its portfolio of investments besides Tencent. Does that mean they would rather van Dijk reduce the Tencent stake (he says he has no plans to do so) and reinvest the proceeds elsewhere? Probably not.There are reasons why Prosus might continue to close the valuation gap. Inclusion on Amsterdam’s Euronext indices over the next few months ought to attract index funds, for instance. And some more lucrative exits such as the the 1.6-billion-euro profit Naspers made on India’s Flipkart would reassure shareholders that van Dijk is making the right investment calls.Van Dijk has taken a healthy step to bring the company more in line with the value of its holdings. But now he can’t as readily point towards technicalities as a reason for the discount, he needs to prove his ability to deliver the investment returns that justify spending shareholders’ money.To contact the author of this story: Alex Webb at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
As part of Mcity's leadership circle, Verizon (VZ) is actively developing various 5G solutions designed to increase pedestrian safety and avoid car accidents.
NEW YORK, Sept. 10, 2019 -- Ronan Dunne, executive vice president for Verizon, (NYSE, Nasdaq: VZ), and group CEO for Verizon Consumer, is scheduled to speak at the Bank of.
BASKING RIDGE, N.J., Sept. 10, 2019 -- Businesses now have the opportunity to enhance their employee collaboration and productivity as well as reduce costs, with new.
Dividend paying stocks like Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) tend to be popular with investors, and for good...
Verizon is working with Mcity at the University of Michigan to advance transportation safety and shape the future of autonomous vehicles and smart cities using 5G. The Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband network is now live at the Mcity Test Facility where we are testing various 5G solutions designed to boost pedestrian safety and avoid car accidents.
(Bloomberg) -- Samsung Electronics Co. and Huawei Technologies Co. took turns announcing new mobile processors at the IFA technology show in Berlin last week, and the big thing the new chips have in common is an integrated 5G modem.In a market dominated by U.S. rival Qualcomm Inc., the world’s two biggest smartphone manufacturers asserted a lead in delivering one of the keys to unlocking widespread availability of 5G devices. A system-on-chip that integrates the applications processor and a fifth-generation wireless modem significantly reduces the space and power requirements compared to existing solutions that use two separate chips.Qualcomm has such models on its 2020 road map, but this past week Samsung announced it’s planning mass production for its alternative at the end of 2019 and Huawei is moving even faster, promising to release its most advanced processor with the Mate 30 Pro smartphone on Sept. 19.The Kirin 990 5G from Huawei subsidiary HiSilicon is built at Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and packs more than 10.3 billion transistors into a space the size of a fingernail. It includes a graphics processor, an octa-core CPU, and the all-important 5G modem, along with dedicated neural processing units for accelerating artificial intelligence tasks.At Huawei’s Berlin launch event, consumer group Chief Executive Officer Richard Yu showed the high-end 990 5G achieving real-world download speeds on China Mobile’s network in excess of 1.7Gbps. That’s fast enough to download high-definition movies and demanding 3-D games in a matter of seconds.Samsung’s approach with its Exynos 980 is to target the mid-range. Along with 5G capabilities, this new chip integrates 802.11ax fast Wi-Fi along with Samsung’s own NPU. It won’t run apps and games quite as quickly as flagship chips, but should help the South Korean company garner a slice of the more mainstream market before Qualcomm brings out an armada of new 5G-capable chips next year.Samsung’s emphasis on this part of the mobile market was also signaled by its launch of the Galaxy A90 this month, one of the earliest examples of a mid-range device with 5G.Huawei’s Next Flagship Phone Set to Sink Without Google Apps (1)For its part, Qualcomm is promising to cover the entire range of price points and mobile device types with its 5G portfolio in 2020, however the world’s premier mobile chip designer is finding itself behind its faster-moving rivals.While Huawei is “pushing to show tech leadership,” the company has “made sacrifices in order to make an integrated SOC,” said Anshel Sag, mobile industry analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. He cited the chip’s lack of support for mmWave -- the high-frequency 5G favored by U.S. carriers AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. plus some European ones -- as an example. The Kirin 990 5G is fast by today’s standards and a great upgrade for Huawei’s upcoming devices in China, but Sag said it’ll find itself outpaced by rivals in 2020.The silver lining to the trade war for Qualcomm, however, is that Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro will struggle to sell in Europe so long as the Trump administration prevents it from offering Google services on new phones. Irrespective of how fast and advanced its Kirin 990 5G may be, the trade war will prevent Huawei from fully capitalizing on its capabilities and may, in fact, push the company to license the chip out to other smartphone vendors, such as Lenovo Group, which is not subject to the same sanctions.If the U.S. keeps Huawei on its blacklist, preventing it from buying American technology, the company faces further chip challenges. To develop successors to the Kirin 990, it needs to license the latest designs from SoftBank Group’s ARM, but that company discontinued work with Huawei because of the U.S. ban.(Updates with analyst comment in the third from last paragraph.)To contact the reporter on this story: Vlad Savov in Tokyo at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Edwin Chan at firstname.lastname@example.org, Nate Lanxon, Peter ElstromFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc.’s sweeping transformation from Ma Bell to a multimedia titan has gone both too far and not far enough for Elliott Management Corp.Billionaire Paul Singer’s New York hedge fund disclosed a new $3.2 billion position in AT&T, taking on one of the nation’s biggest and most widely held companies with a plan to boost its share price by more than 50% through asset sales and cost cutting.Investors applauded the development, briefly sending AT&T shares on their biggest intraday rally in more than a decade.For Singer, the move represents one of the biggest bets in the four decades since the hard-driving activist investor founded his firm. And it strikes at the core of the way AT&T has built its bigger-is-better empire: a costly M&A binge that has turned the carrier into one of the most indebted companies on Earth.“There will be a fight,” said Chetan Sharma, a wireless-industry analyst.Elliott outlined a four-part plan for the company in a letter to its board Monday. The proposal calls for the company to explore divesting assets, including satellite-TV provider DirecTV, the Mexican wireless operations, pieces of the landline business, and others.It urges AT&T, led by Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson, to exit businesses that don’t fit its strategy, run a more efficient operation and stop making major acquisitions. Elliott said it would also recommend candidates to add to AT&T’s board.In response, AT&T said it would review Elliott’s recommendations and said many of them are “ones we are already executing today.”The telecom giant said its strategy is “driven by the unique portfolio of valuable businesses we’ve assembled across communications networks and media and entertainment, and as Elliott points out, is the foundation for significant value creation.”The carrier said it believes that “growing and investing in these businesses is the best path forward for our company and our shareholders.”Still, investors seem to think Elliott’s plan could wring more value from AT&T. The shares surged as much as 5.2% to $38.14 in New York trading Monday. That was the biggest intraday jump since March 2009 and put them at their highest level since February of last year. They later settled down to a 2.7% gain amid a broader pullback in the market.Elliott said the investment -- among its largest to date -- was made because the company is deeply undervalued after a period of “prolonged and substantial underperformance.” It argued this has been marked by its shares lagging the broader S&P 500 over the past decade.It pointed to a series of strategic setbacks, including $200 billion in acquisitions, the “most damaging” of which was its $39 billion attempted purchase of T-Mobile US Inc. That deal resulted in the largest breakup fee of all time when the government blocked it in 2011 -- about $6 billion in cash and assets.“In addition to the internal and external distractions it caused itself, AT&T’s failed takeover capitalized a viable competitor for years to come,” Elliott said.The hedge fund also slammed the subsequent acquisitions of DirecTV and media giant Time Warner Inc. That puts particular pressure on Stephenson, 59, who oversaw the deals Elliott criticized in the letter.But, while the position in AT&T is large, Elliott may have a difficult time pushing for change unless it gets other investors to back its stance. Its newly disclosed stake in AT&T represents just about 1.2% of the company’s total market value.Elliott’s plan also calls for aggressive cost-cutting measures that aim to improve AT&T’s margins by 3 percentage points by 2022. Those margins have come under pressure amid cord cutting in video and widespread discounting in wireless, and Elliott said competitors like Verizon Communications Inc. have done a better job addressing those headwinds.Elliott said in the letter it has identified opportunities for savings in excess of $10 billion, but the plan would only require cost cuts of $5 billion.Elliott is also calling for a series of governance changes, including separating the roles of CEO and chairman -- currently held by Stephenson -- and the formation of a strategic review committee to identify the opportunities at hand.Transformative DealsWith a series of deals over the past several years, AT&T has transformed itself from a traditional telecom company into a multimedia behemoth. The company bought satellite-TV provider DirecTV for $67 billion in 2015, leaping into first place among U.S. pay-TV companies. Elliott criticized that deal in its letter as having come “at the absolute peak of the linear TV market.”AT&T then moved firmly into entertainment and media with the $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner in 2018. That deal brought marquee assets such as HBO, CNN and Warner Bros.“Despite nearly 600 days passing between signing and closing (and more than a year passing since), AT&T has yet to articulate a clear strategic rationale for why AT&T needs to own Time Warner,” Jesse Cohn, a partner at Elliott, and Marc Steinberg, an associate portfolio manager, said in the letter. “While it is too soon to tell whether AT&T can create value with Time Warner, we remain cautious on the benefits of this combination.”High-Profile FightsElliott has a history of tackling some of the biggest and most high-profile companies around the globe, including EBay Inc., Pernod Ricard SA, and Bayer AG in the past year alone. The AT&T investment marks Elliott’s single largest equity investment with an activist slant.It’s not the first time Elliott has taken on a major telecommunications company, either. The hedge fund battled Vivendi SA for control of the board of Telecom Italia SpA, eventually winning control in 2018 in a fight that dragged on into this year.Those battles don’t always end in success. In Elliott’s proxy fight at Hyundai Motor Group earlier this year, investors opted not to elect its slate of directors at two of the South Korean manufacturer’s subsidiaries. But even in some of its major losses, like at Samsung Electronics Co., the repercussion of its agitations can send ripples beyond the proxy clash.Samsung managed to keep Elliott at bay in 2015 but touched off a series of events that resulted in a brief jail term for the electronics giant’s billionaire heir apparent for influence peddling, protests by hundreds of thousands of people in Seoul, and the downfall and imprisonment of South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye.Heavy DebtAT&T is the most indebted company in the world -- not counting financial firms and government-backed entities -- with $194 billion in total debt as of June, a legacy of Stephenson’s steady clip of large acquisitions. The CEO used to keep a spreadsheet of a few dozen companies that he studies on his tablet to plan his next big deal, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg in 2016.The stock is among the top 20 most widely held U.S.-traded companies among institutional investors, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s partially because of its steady dividend, which totaled $2.04 a share last year, giving investors a reliable payout in good times and bad.What Bloomberg Intelligence Says“AT&T will likely be under greater pressure to streamline operations and wring better performance out of Time Warner following the involvement of activist investor Elliott Management, yet this probably won’t prompt a change in company strategy. ... Elliott’s recommendation to spin off the DirecTV satellite business isn’t practical, in our view, as AT&T likely needs its free cash to help fund its dividend.”\-- John Butler, senior telecom analyst, and Boyoung Kim, associate analystClick here to view the research.Phone companies have also traditionally been considered a safety net for investors in bad economic times because people still need to communicate, though AT&T’s exposure to the landline business has more recently been a drag on profits because more people are shutting off their home phones and going wireless-only.Elliott’s move also put AT&T back in the cross hairs of one of its biggest critics: Donald Trump.The president, whose Justice Department unsuccessfully opposed AT&T’s Time Warner acquisition and who has slammed CNN’s coverage of him, cheered on Elliott’s efforts.“Great news that an activist investor is now involved with AT&T,” he tweeted.\--With assistance from Olga Kharif.To contact the reporter on this story: Scott Deveau in New York at email@example.comTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Liana Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org, Nick Turner, John J. Edwards IIIFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Activist hedge fund Elliott Management revealed on Monday that it had taken a massive position in AT&T, saying the telecom giant can see its stock double by 2021.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Please, AT&T, no more giant mergers and acquisitions. Wall Street is begging you.That was one of the main messages in a letter Monday morning to AT&T Inc.’s board from Jesse Cohn, the head of U.S. activist investing at Elliott Management Corp. who is pressuring the communications and media conglomerate to get its act together. AT&T’s share price and reputation have been dragged down by troubles stemming from its ill-advised takeover of DirecTV in 2015 and its subsequent megadeal last year for Time Warner, which has yet to bear fruit. AT&T’s core wireless business continues to perform well, but it’s being overshadowed by CEO Randall Stephenson’s perplexing decision to expand into areas beyond his and the company’s expertise. And it’s making this push at a time when others from Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corp. to Verizon Communications Inc. are looking to exit media and pay-TV assets or otherwise streamline their businesses. Elliott disclosed that it owns $3.2 billion of AT&T stock and wants the company to consider a number of changes. They include ridding itself of distractions such as the DirecTV unit and wireless operations in Mexico; eliminating wasteful spending; empowering the board to hold Stephenson’s team more accountable; and avoiding any more big M&A. This way, AT&T can sharpen its focus on 5G, the next generation of wireless networks – in which it has a chance to outshine Verizon – and come up with a clearer strategy for streaming-TV products, where it faces fierce competition from Netflix Inc., Walt Disney Co. and others. As of now, AT&T offers all of the following video services, and I wouldn’t be surprised if its own managers failed a pop quiz on which one does what:Cohn’s letter, co-signed by Marc Steinberg, an associate portfolio manager at Elliott, is a reiteration of the columns I’ve written during the past two years, so I agree with many of their points. Activist shareholders are often guilty of stating the obvious and making overly broad recommendations for things a company should already be doing anyway. But this is a case where AT&T has started to look unwieldy and is moving too slowly to address that. It’s time an investor spoke up.To Stephenson’s credit, he has been making headway in paying down debt this year, by raising prices for DirecTV’s satellite and streaming packages and selling off WarnerMedia’s (formerly Time Warner) Hudson Yards office space in New York and its stake in Hulu. Still, AT&T was saddled with $186 billion of debt, net of cash, as of June. That’s more than fellow media giants Disney and Comcast Corp. owe combined. After AT&T’s share price popped almost 5% on Monday morning, the company acknowledged the letter and said Stephenson and his team “look forward to engaging with Elliott.” It’s always my favorite choice of words by companies suddenly targeted by an activist investor, because you know the last thing they are thinking is that they’re looking forward to dealing with one. AT&T also said that it’s already taking many of the actions Elliott proposed. If that’s true AT&T sure hasn’t done a great job of articulating that. There are so many strategic decisions I could pick apart (and have), but I think this one is emblematic of the company’s situation: Last year, AT&T decided that driving away DirecTV and DirecTV Now (now called AT&T TV Now) customers by raising prices and cutting back on channels was the best path to improving profitability. When making a product less appealing to customers is the strategy, that’s a problem. It doesn’t serve consumers, employees or shareholders to operate that way, which is why I’ve written here and here that AT&T should sell off the DirecTV division – especially as AT&T’s own WarnerMedia group gears up to introduce HBO Max next year, an app that will compete with DirecTV services. AT&T is valued at nearly 8 times forward Ebitda, a 20% premium to its five-year historical average ratio, though it’s a wide discount to Disney and Comcast’s valuations. Cohn and Steinberg figure their suggestions could drive AT&T above $60 a share by the end of 2021, from about $38 currently. I don’t put much stock in such predictions, though it’s clearly caught shareholders’ attention. Whether AT&T gets to $60, or $50 or $70, is anyone’s guess. But Stephenson does need to rethink his approach – or the board may need to rethink his title. To contact the author of this story: Tara Lachapelle at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Beth Williams at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering the business of entertainment and telecommunications, as well as broader deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- What do you get if you combine $90 million of venture capital funding, 430 sports writers and more than just a splash of Silicon Valley bravura?The answer might just be a model for how to make money in digital news. Subscription-based sports website The Athletic has encountered plenty of skepticism since its foundation three years ago by two veterans of fitness app Strava. But it continues to grow readership apace and attract investment and writers alike.Wariness is understandable: the subscription-based sports news website is hiring hundreds of good journalists on generous salaries, sometimes more than $120,000, to write thoughtful stories. It extended coverage to England’s Premier League soccer last month, adding almost 60 journalists. Surely there’s a hitch?Reverse engineering the firm’s finances suggests that it’s not far off profitability, and has a path to a sustainable business. Indeed, it’s likely to be just about covering its current costs if The Athletic hits its target of one million subscribers by year end. That’s an ambitious goal, given that the New York Times still only has 3.8 million subscribers. But between July and August the Athletic sprinted toward the finish line, adding 100,000 subscribers. Three years since its founding, it has attracted a total of 600,000 paying readers.The website’s approach points at how, after two decades of turmoil, the news business is slowly inching towards business models that work by focusing on high quality, specialized content that readers are willing to pay for.In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek last month, the company said subscribers paid fees averaging $64 a year. Yes, that’s more than the cost of a $60 one-off annual subscription, but that’s because some people are paying by the month, often at a much higher rate than if they signed up for a year. Based on that average revenue per user (ARPU), The Athletic has a sales run rate of about $38 million. If it reaches its full-year subscriber target and that ARPU isn’t too heavily diluted by introductory discounts, sales will hit $64 million.I estimate the website’s annual costs to be a little over $60 million. Right now, that suggests a deficit of at least $20 million. While my calculations might be slightly out, it’s still a decent yardstick to indicate that by year end, it’ll be close to profitability. And the company does have the buffer of $90 million of venture capital money, including cash from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Slowly, we seem to be reaching the consensus that the best way to make money from written journalism is simply to get readers to pay for it. The past 12 months have been a brutal one for publications funded by online advertising: the U.S. news business cut the most roles in the first five months of the year since the 2009 recession, with BuzzFeed, Vice Media and Verizon Communications Inc. all firing staff.Publications that specialize in a particular subject and charge a subscription fee are a bright spot. At one end are those providing professional information for a significant sum. An annual subscription to the Financial Times will set you back 207 pounds ($254). Tech business site The Information charges between $399 and $749. Ion Investment Group meanwhile agreed to pay 1.4 billion pounds this year for the group that owns Mergermarket and Debtwire – providers of financial news and data.At the other end are the likes of The Athletic, with a coverage area too broad to be quite considered a niche, but which can attract a large audience happy to pay a smaller fee. The pollster Gallup estimates that 59% of Americans are interested in sports. That equates to some 169 million U.S. adults. So far, The Athletic has signed up just 0.4% of them as subscribers.A word of caution to The Athletic and its co-founders: don’t be greedy. Chief Executive Officer Alex Mather generated warranted opprobrium when he told the New York Times in 2017 that the he would “wait every local paper out and let them continuously bleed, until we are the last ones standing.” It’s the sort of line that resonates well when pitching prospective VC investors, but plays poorly elsewhere.The same goes for aligning the pace of growth with spending. Cautionary tales abound, and the losers are most likely to be the journalists ultimately deemed superfluous when money has been spent too quickly. At a certain point, the company will have to generate a profit. If it expands too quickly and hires too many, then has to shrink, the journalists will be the first to suffer by losing their jobs.To contact the author of this story: Alex Webb at email@example.comTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Baker at firstname.lastname@example.orgThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
Sep.19 -- Guru Gowrappan, executive vice president and group chief executive officer at Verizon Media, discusses the reorganization of the company, his plan to diversify revenue, how different the business will look in the future and his strategy for Asia. He speaks exclusively on “Bloomberg Markets: China Open” from the sidelines of the Milken Institute Asia Summit in Singapore.