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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Verizon is betting its future on 5G, and executives tell Axios that includes a more aggressive push to focus its media brand Oath on building over-the-top (OTT) brands with a lot of live streaming content.

Why it matters: Oath chief Tim Armstrong is reportedly on his way out, raising questions about Verizon's media arm and the company's overall media ambitions.

  • For months, Armstrong pitched Oath's advertising potential as its focal point, but it has thus far failed to turn that business into a serious ad competitor to Google or Facebook.
  • The company argues it has made progress, and that it's taken some time for it to combine all of its assets under one roof. (Yesterday it finally rolled out an integrated ad stack called "Oath Ad Platforms.")
  • But Armstrong's exit, combined with Verizon's repeated denial of interest in buying a linear TV network and the sunsetting of its video platform go90 this year, makes some industry experts bearish on Verizon's commitment to its media business.

The other side: Verizon Wireless group president and EVP Ronan Dunne tells Axios that the rumor mill is missing the bigger picture.

  • He says Oath will provide fertile ground for the company to deliver immersive experiences through 5G, which will in turn help it drive engagement and bundle its services, as well as build custom brand experiences that it can sell as a business to consumer service.
  • Dunne says that RYOT, the entertainment studio within Oath, will soon be one of the first parts of Oath to reap the benefits by 5G, creating new forms of storytelling that can be distributed on the high-speed network.

Sources at Oath say that the company is now looking to push Oath brands to do more live-streamed OTT programming.

  • Last month, Axios reported that Yahoo Finance will be the first of its brands to create a full 8-hour day of live programming. Sources say that other brands are in the process of following suit.
  • The company is placing its live bet on sports, in particular, given the application opportunities for immersive technologies (driven by 5G connectivity) to be deployed alongside games through Yahoo Sports, one of its more successful media brands.

Thought bubble from Axios Managing Editor Kim Hart ... "Verizon has made 5g its huge bet, and it's looking for ways to differentiate itself from what has become a crowded field of 5G competitors including AT&T, which also has OTT ambitions with its new Time Warner content."

Programming note: I'll be interviewing Dunne this Thursday at Mobile World Congress in Los Angeles to talk about the latest on Verizon's 5G efforts, media moves and more. Email me to connect if you're there.

Go deeper

Exclusive: Law enforcement organizations back Biden pick for assistant AG

Vanita Gupta Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Local and federal law enforcement officials are backing Vanita Gupta, President Biden’s nominee for associate attorney general, according to letters sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: The Major County Sheriffs of America noted Gupta “emphasized that she does not support efforts to ‘defund the police'” and highlighted her desire to improve criminal justice through methods that include increased training for law enforcement officials.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

U.S. releases report finding Saudi prince approved Khashoggi operation

Photo: Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has released an unclassified report assessing that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) approved the operation to "capture or kill" Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Driving the news: The White House also announced sanctions on entities implicated in the murder, though not on MBS directly. Officials also announced a new "Khashoggi ban" under which individuals accused of harassing journalists or dissidents outside their borders can be barred from entering the U.S.

About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says

Joe Biden speaks during an event commemorating the 50 million COVID-19 vaccine shots. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Nearly 1 in 5 adults and nearly half of Americans 65 and older have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, White House senior adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday.

The big picture: The Biden administration has previously said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate most of the American population by the end of July.