AT&T Is Adding AppNexus to Broaden Advanced TV Ad Platform, Unveils WatchTV


DALLAS – AT&T confirmed its plans to buy ad tech company AppNexus in a bid to strengthen its advanced TV advertising business.

AT&T did not confirm reports it paid $1.6 billion for AppNexus, but it did say the deal is expected to close in third-quarter 2018.

AT&T will keep AppNexus’ management team and employee base that includes more than 400 software engineers and product managers. The team will become part of AT&T advertising & analytics, led by division CEO Brian Lesser, who said AppNexus is the “strongest player in the space.”

“AppNexus has scale of infrastructure, advanced technology, and diverse talent,” Lesser said. “The combination of AT&T advertising and analytics and AppNexus will help deliver a world-class advertising platform that provides brands and publishers a new and innovative way to reach consumers in the marketplace today.”

AppNexus specializes in machine learning and predictive analytics, advertising technology, and video. AT&T will integrate AppNexus’ technology with its own first-party data, stemming from millions of direct-to-consumer relationships in mobile, pay TV, and broadband. AT&T will also add its video content, including the Turner networks it just acquired as part of its recently approved $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. Through AppNexus, AT&T will extend its ad business’ global reach into Asia-Pacific, Australia, Europe, and Latin America.

Brian O’Kelley, CEO of AppNexus, said, “Innovation is core to the heritage of both AT&T and AppNexus, and we have an exciting opportunity to chart the future course of advertising together. Combining AT&T’s incredible assets with our technology, we will help brands and marketers power new advertising experiences for consumers. It’s what the market is asking for, and together we’re poised to deliver it.”

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said now that the Time Warner deal is done, AT&T is on track to launch a real-time ad exchange platform within 24 months.

Stephenson said that AT&T’s targeted ad exchange platform would differentiate from digital platforms like Facebook and Google by offering marketers the chance to place their brands next to premium content.

AT&T also announced a new virtual pay TV service with its unlimited wireless plans called WatchTV. The service will include more than 30 basic cable networks – mostly Turner Networks channels like TNT, TBS and CNN, but also AMC and A&E. It will be bundled into AT&T’s new “Unlimited & More” and “Premium” mobile phone plans that will launch next week.

WatchTV will also be available as a standalone offering for $15 a month.