It’s official: AOL, the company best known for dial-up internet and those free CDs that you made all your high school art projects with, has been acquired by telecom giant Verizon for $4.4 billion.
In addition to it’s web and advertising services, AOL is the owner of massive web media site The Huffington Post. It’s also a relatively new entry to the world of online video entertainment. The one-time internet giant has launched a number of original series, including popular offerings from stars like Nicole Richie and James Franco, as well as a well-received docu-series, Follow Me, which offered a behind-the-scenes look at YouTube stardom.
So what does the future look like for AOL Originals under Verizon rule?
The answer is that things are looking pretty good. Last week at its Newfront, AOL put on a confident presentation touting increasing viewership, a renewed partnership with James Franco, and new content from Oscar winner Jared Leto among others. Suffice it to say Verizon didn’t buy AOL for the free dial-up CDs. In addition to its existing video division, AOL is planning new video ventures from its media arm, the Huffington Post. It’s likely that HuffPo, and AOL video with its extensive mobile capabilities, are what Verizon was after all along.
According to analysts, Verizon wants to keep up with its competitor AT&T, which recently purchased YouTube MCN Fullscreen through its subsidiary, Otter Media. If Verizon is to keep up it’s going to need to jump on the online and mobile video train and AOL is an expensive but effective way to do that. AOL has been developing its video ad network along with new content, which will allow Verizon to jump to the front of the line in online video.
Of course, you can’t sell ads unless you have videos to sell them against. AOL’s big shift to mobile, backed by stacks of Verizon cash, could be a big opportunity for new media stars. No one knows more about short form and mobile content than the stars of YouTube and Vine. AOL has flirted with influencers before, but this could be a chance to take center stage. If you want to dominate millennial phone screens, a YouTuber is a bigger asset than any Oscar winner.