Exclusive: AT&T considers cellphone plans subsidized by advertisements


(Reuters) – AT&T Inc. is considering introducing a wireless phone plan that was subsidized by advertising only a year ago, Chief Executive Officer John Stankey said in an interview on Tuesday.

The idea, which has not been previously disclosed, underscores AT & T’s commitment to the advertising business as the US phone carrier reviews its portfolio to identify assets to sell to reduce its debt load . AT&T is considering selling its ad-technology unit Xandr, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

“I believe there is a segment of our customer base where, given an option, they will take some weight of advertising for a $ 5 or $ 10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey said.

Various companies, including Amazon.com Inc., Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint’s Boost Mobile, have tested ad-supported phone services since the early 2000s, but they have not caught on. AT&T is hoping that better ad targeting can revive the idea.

The planned launch of an ad-supported version of AT & T’s video-streaming service HBO Max next year will serve as a “founding element”, providing new ad inventory, and will be key to new phone plans supported by ads , Stanke said details without offering.

Stankey said ad-supported phone plans could be offered “in a year or two”.

Stanke said AT&T engineers are creating “integrated customer identifiers”. Such technology allows marketers to identify users of multiple devices and serve them relevant advertisements.

He said that the ability to fix Tune advertising targets would allow AT&T to sell ads at a higher rate.

AT&T has invested in developing targeted advertising on its own media properties using data from its phone, TV and Internet customers, but the company has been “slow to get into the curve” when expanding its market, leaving advertisers AT&T Can use data to target others. Audiences of media companies, Stankey said.

In March, AT&T’s Xander signed a deal to partner Walt Disney with more AMC networks, helping advertisers buy TV ads across the network.

AT & T’s advertising marketplace, which incorporates data outside of AT&T, can pose privacy challenges as consumers express increasing concerns about tracking their media usage and such as the California Consumer Privacy Act Laws have been passed.

“I don’t know if we can count this in immateriality,” Stanke said, speaking of the use of non-AT&T-owned data.

Stanke, who gave an op-ed for Politico last week, said the US government should provide subsidies to encourage companies to build fiber broadband networks in underground areas, Reuters said in an interview AT&T believes it could have doubled its fiber footprint if it had. economic incentives.

Fiber or fiber optics are thin cables often installed underground that allow companies to deliver Internet services to homes. AT&T uses fiber to power homes and businesses as well as the Internet to power its 5G network.

AT & T’s fiber currently passes through 18 million homes in the United States. He said the company could increase that number from 3 million to 5 million homes per year.

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas; Helen Koster, Crystal Hu and Kenneth Lee in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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