The 2015 CRM Market Influential Leaders: Lowell McAdam, CEO, Verizon

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Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam is in the middle of his biggest year yet. But tenure aside—McAdam has been at the company since 2000—he's never been one to embrace the status quo. "[McAdam] encourages change. He always says, 'We have to change or the industry is going to change us,'" says company spokesman Bob Varettoni. "There's always a higher gear, and he's always shooting for it."

Over the past several months, McAdam has doubled down on innovation, and his commitment to the future of mobile devices has resonated across industries. In early 2014, Verizon sealed the deal to purchase Vodafone, a longtime silent partner that controlled 45 percent of Verizon Communications. The strategic step not only gave Verizon control over its entire cash flow but also served as a prerequisite for the massive AOL acquisition that would eventually follow. "Back then, McAdam said, 'We're not just going to provide cell phone service. We're going to build something bigger on the wireless network that we have,' and it was a huge bet," Varettoni recalls. By 2015, the bet became bigger—in May, Verizon turned heads with its plans to acquire AOL for $4.4 billion.

To meet an ever-increasing demand for video content, Verizon plans to roll out a new video platform this summer, and AOL will play a key role. The company is working on a three-pronged product that will offer on-demand video as part of customers' standard data packages; a pay-per-view model that will facilitate streaming of live events such as the World Cup; and a third, ad-supported video model that will be free to viewers, according to Fran Shammo, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Verizon. That's where AOL comes in.

"We're going to bring a product to market where people can enjoy that product and they won't necessarily pay for it through their data bundle.... The piece that [was] missing was the ability to have an ad tech platform to insert the advertising," Shammo said at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference in May. "[McAdam] knew that there was a need for a video product that was free to consumers, and AOL is going to help monetize that product with the ad infrastructure," Varettoni adds.

The "revolutionary" video platform was still in the works at press time, but industry experts agree that McAdam's move should be applauded for its potential to disrupt the traditional on-demand video model with an entirely ad-supported offering. "What McAdam is doing is basically bringing the content, network, and technology together," says Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research. "It's pretty powerful reassembling all these pieces, but it's what’s required for the future of media and customer experience."

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