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Verizon's Vestberg still on the hunt for content

Verizon's CEO is in the tiny resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho, this week, apparently on the hunt for more content deals.

"I have a lot of people knocking at my door," Verizon's Hans Vestberg told CNBC. "We're talking to a lot of people."

But Vestberg emphasized that Verizon isn't going to be promiscuous. "We will also be very cautious," he said, explaining that Verizon doesn't want to inundate its customers with too many different types of content. "We really need the right type of content, with the right type of partner, with the right type of brand value," Vestberg said.

Working vacations

Vestberg's appearance at Sun Valley is notable considering the annual gathering of America's super rich and ultra-connected is often ground zero for content mega-deals. According to the New York Times, it's where Verizon's 2015 purchase of AOL was cemented, as well as Comcast's blockbuster acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2009.

It's also worth noting that Verizon has been backing away from its content play by selling AOL and Yahoo to Apollo Global Management for $5 billion. Meanwhile, Comcast may be doubling down on its own content play via its rumored interest in a tie-up with ViacomCBS or an acquisition of Roku.

Vestberg made it clear he's not necessarily looking for mergers or acquisitions but instead partnerships. Verizon in recent years has very publicly pivoted to content deals it can bundle into its wireless and wireline service plans. So far those deals have stretched from Disney+ to Discovery+ to Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass. Vestberg likely traveled to Sun Valley partly in an attempt to drum up more such partnerships.

He's clearly in the right place. As the New York Times pointed out, luminaries in Sun Valley this year include cable giant John Malone, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Apple's Tim Cook and Mike Bloomberg, among others.

If Vestberg is interested in supplementing Verizon's offerings with digital goodies from other giant content producers, he's in good company.

Don't forget 5G

But in comments to CNBC, Vestberg also argued that Verizon's core business – 5G – is doing just fine on its own, thank you very much. He said that 2021 is a "tipping point" for 5G as the American economy opens up, people venture away from their homes and 5G devices go mainstream.

Mobile traffic on Verizon's network – an indication of how often Americans are out and about – is now "almost back to normal," according to Vestberg.

And he said that Verizon's revenue opportunities in 5G remain undimmed. He said those opportunities stretch from 5G connections for smartphones to 5G-powered edge computing services to fixed wireless access (FWA) services running over 4G and 5G connections.

"All of them are happening, big time, right now," Vestberg said of Verizon's 5G growth opportunities. "We feel really good about our 5G situation."

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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