In an unexpected move, Verizon Communications has announced that it will purchase AOL for $4.4 billion in cash, with the deal expected to close later this Summer, pending regulatory approval.
The purchase is expected to tie into Verizon’s focus on mobile video delivery and mobile advertising, with the service provider aiming to launch a new mobile and online video service as soon as this Summer. The purchase is also said to be related to its nascent Internet of Things initiatives.
This is not new territory for Verizon, as it has either heavily invested in emerging technologies or purchased related technology from others, such as in the development of now shuttered mobile video streaming services with Redbox, and the purchase of Intel’s OnCue streaming technology.
However, as AOL has shifted from being a service provider to a content portal over the last decade, the content side of AOL, which includes media properties Engadget, TechCrunch and The Huffington Post, is put into a potentially awkward position, as the aforementioned sites are known to regularly write articles calling out the communications company for anti-consumer behavior as well as articles critical of its business practices.
Verizon previously attempted to start its own branded tech news blog, which it called SugarString in 2014. The blog was styled very similarly to tech blogs like the aforementioned Engadget and TechCrunch, with one fatal flaw: Specific subject matter was banned from discussion and news articles, such as Verizon’s position against Net Neutrality and its involvement with government spying activities.
While the online and mobile tech part of the deal is being parroted across the wider media, the above is the main focus of much of the online reporting of the deal, which underscores just how differently the announcement is being handled. What remains to be seen is how Verizon will handle management of the above properties, with many readers already expressing similar concerns regarding neutrality and impartiality following the purchase.