June 10, 2019 / 1:03 PM / a year ago

AT&T's Xandr launches ad-buying platform for premium content

June 10 (Reuters) - AT&T Inc's advertising unit Xandr on Monday launched an ad-buying platform called Xandr Invest to lure advertisers with exclusive access to AT&T customer data and streamline how companies can buy ad space across different formats such as streaming video and mobile.

The platform is AT&T's latest move to combine the pieces of two different acquisitions - media company Time Warner and ad technology company AppNexus - to evolve beyond a wireless phone carrier.

Like other companies with advertising ambitions, AT&T will have stiff competition from Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook, which together commanded nearly 60% of the U.S. internet advertising market in 2018, according to a report last week from consultancy PwC. AT&T had single-digit market share last year, PwC said.

Xandr Invest will let advertisers buy ads on premium and brand safe content on AT&T-owned properties such as TV networks CNN, TBS and TNT. It also will be the only ad-buying platform for Community, Xandr's premium video marketplace that also curates content from outside publishers like Vice and Tubi.

Ads on traditional live television will not be available on Xandr Invest at the launch and will be added over time, said Suzanne O'Kelley, Xandr vice president of product for buyers. Those ads will continue to be sold by a sales team, she said.

"As advertising becomes more dependent on technology, bringing more ways to buy is a big part of our mission," O'Kelley said in an interview.

As it transforms into a media and advertising company, AT&T has publicized it has 170 million direct customer relationships through its wireless phones and satellite TV business DirecTV, and the anonymized data can help advertisers better target their ads. That data now is available exclusively through Xandr Invest, the company said.

Xandr Invest also includes an offering called programmatic guaranteed, which will allow advertisers to reserve ads on premium content that may have limited supply.

As traditional live TV is added to Xandr Invest, it will eventually allow advertisers to buy live TV ads upfront through the ad-buying platform without going through a direct sales team, O'Kelley said. (Reporting by Sheila Dang in New York Editing in Bill Trott)

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