Verizon Media names CTO, touts livestreaming biz

Verizon Media's new CTO Rathi Murthy. (Verizon)

Verizon Media today named Rathi Murthy as its Chief Technology Officer. Based in Sunnyvale, California, Murthy will oversee Verizon Media’s strategy in 5G, advertising and content, commerce, and subscriptions. Murthy joins Verizon Media from Gap where she was CTO. Prior to that, she held senior leadership roles at American Express, eBay and Yahoo.

Verizon Media has struggled the last couple of years to “find itself” as a brand and as a business model. But its head of North American sales Jeff Lucas, speaking with FierceVideo at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, said the company’s audience is “second only to Google.”

The Verizon Media name is relatively new: Verizon gave the business unit that name in January 2019, replacing the previous Oath name. Verizon Media sub-brands include AOL, Yahoo, TechCrunch and HuffPost, among others.

RELATED: Verizon Media Group cutting 800 jobs: report

NFL livestream arrangement

Because of its acquisition of Yahoo in 2017, Verizon Media owns established platforms such as Yahoo News, Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports. Lucas said Yahoo Sports has an exclusive livestream agreement with the NFL to stream every NFL game on every network via mobile phones and tablets. The service isn’t available on TVs or laptops. But for phones and tablets, viewers can download the app via the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Viewers can watch the football games for free while Verizon makes money via advertiser support. Lucas said the Yahoo Sports app with NFL games basically competes against individual networks that have rights to different games. “The difference is CBS only has CBS games and Fox only has Fox games with their rights,” said Lucas. “We have the rights for every game in every market.”

The Yahoo Sports app also livestreams games from lots of other sports including hockey, baseball, basketball and soccer. There’s always something livestreaming on the app.

Lucas said Verizon Media counts 900 million monthly active users, making it second in audience to Google and ahead of Facebook.

That may sound a bit exaggerated at first glance for Verizon Media, a brand name that’s only been around for a year. But if you think about the beginnings of its sub-brands Yahoo and AOL, those companies competed against Google back when all three were just internet browsers.

Of course, Google has since grown exponentially, making a mark with user-generated content on YouTube, among other things. Lucas said Verizon Media differentiates with its “professionally produced content.” Neither is Verizon Media an apples-to-apples comparison with Netflix or Amazon Prime Video whose platforms make their money from subscriptions.

Advertising dollars

Advertising is a major part of Verizon Media’s revenues. Its media properties have first-party data and log-in information. “It gives you a deterministic audience that’s great for advertising,” said Lucas. “We have first-party data because we have such a wide array of different content offerings. We can see a user as they go across our ecosystem.”

Lucas is a sales guy, not a tech guy. But he said the biggest innovation at Verizon Media will be in advertising technology, specifically Demand Side Platform (DSP), a system that allows buyers of digital ads to bid in real-time for online advertising within ad exchanges through a single interface.

This might be something Verizon Media’s new CTO will be tackling in her new position.