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Tim Armstrong Unveils Oath: AOL-Yahoo Combo Is as Big as Netflix and Looking to Expand

Variety logo Variety 6/19/2017 Todd Spangler
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Tim Armstrong, CEO of OathVerizon’s newly merged AOL-Yahoo organization — said the company today is roughly the size of Netflix and is plotting a worldwide expansion to launch more brands in more countries beyond its current portfolio.

The idea behind the Oath name was to convey a long-term commitment to the media business, said Armstrong, speaking at an event Monday at Cannes Lions. Oath comprises more than 50 media and tech brands, and its focus for the future will be on delivering content and ads across mobile platforms.

“From a commitment standpoint, we’ve laid out a road map through 2020 to try to get to 2 billion consumers,” he said, targeting between $10 billion and $20 billion in annual revenue. Currently, the combined AOL and Yahoo properties reach about 1.3 billion users monthly, and serves 1 trillion monthly ad requests.

Verizon last week closed the $4.5 billion acquisition of Yahoo’s internet businesses — whereupon Armstrong and his team began the process of cutting 15% of the combined AOL-Yahoo workforce. According to company reps, the layoffs have been substantially completed and Oath has about 12,000 employees.

“Our original M&A focus was getting to scale” on media brands and marketing technology, Armstrong said. “If we do M&A in the future, it will be opportunistic,” particularly in geographies outside the U.S. such as China.

Armstrong reiterated that Oath doesn’t intend to directly compete with Google and Facebook, even as it eyes bulking up to a global user base of 2 billion in the next three years.

“Our goal is to open up relationships with consumers in a differentiated way,” he said. The positioning to marketers is that Oath’s brands are “trusted places to do marketing,” Armstrong added. “We are probably the single largest, cleanest source of consumer traffic and data.”

Today, Oath conducts business in 40 countries “at scale,” according to Armstrong, and it’s looking to expand beyond that. “The U.S. is 4% of the population of the world,” he said. “As we like to say internally, we are not a 4% company.”

Oath’s media and tech brands include AOL.com, HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, TechCrunch, Engadget, MAKERS, Tumblr, Build Studios, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail, Moviefone, Flickr and Verizon Digital Media Services.

Another point Armstrong made about the selection of the Oath name — which wags derided immediately after it leaked out in April — is that it is meant to remain relatively inconspicuous. “Oath, as a brand, is really kind of an invisible brand behind our consumer and business brands,” he said.

Through 2017 the AOL and Yahoo ad-technology systems will continue to operate separately, but those will be integrated over the course of 2018, said Tim Mahlman, who leads Oath’s ad-tech platforms and was formerly AOL’s president of publisher platforms.

“We’re taking the best of both platforms,” he said, with the company to reveal specifics about the unified advertising stack in six to nine months. The new integrated ad-tech system also will have a new brand name, Mahlman said.

Armstrong said Oath sees an opportunity to grow its live programming slate, and expects to bring linear content to TV in new ways. He called out the Verizon Digital Media Services business, which currently serves 300 million live streams per month, as well as Verizon’s worldwide live broadcast of the NFL matchup between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars from London on Sept. 24.

With the establishment of Oath, Armstrong has added two new dedicated divisions: one for security and one focusing on gender and racial diversity. “The goal is to have our employee base look like our consumer base,” he said.

The Oath executive roundtable was held at the Hotel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes. On Monday night, Oath is hosting a launch party on the beach featuring a performance by Stevie Nicks.

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