AT&T ties data to content with AppNexus buy

Days after refashioning itself as a media company with the close of its Time Warner acquisition, AT&T has inked a deal to help connect its new business with its old. The telecom giant has purchased AppNexus, one of the largest independent ad-tech vendors, as it seeks to use its data-rich telecom networks to bolster ad prices for the richly funded content produced by Time Warner.

AT&T’s legacy business and its newly acquired content arm are menaced by the increasing reach of online video services and the consolidation of digital advertising among a handful of tech providers. As audiences flow online, AT&T’s wireless and satellite TV services face subscriber churn. Meanwhile, its Time Warner business must fend off Google and Facebook, which continue to syphon advertiser budgets through data-driven offerings. The acquisition of AppNexus could make AT&T competitive with those firms through ad sales tools that enable it to develop new, data-driven advertising products.

Although terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed, the target likely fetched north of $1bn. In addition to media reports of a $1.6bn price tag, AppNexus has raised venture capital above that level since 2014. And although ad-tech vendors haven’t been the most richly valued assets of late, AppNexus is a unique company in that the business is larger than most, if not all, independent ad-tech providers and it has a suite of tech products that cater to both advertisers and media companies.

As a wireless carrier and TV service provider, AT&T has an immense stock of data about media consumption habits, location and customer demographics, but few paths to monetize those assets. By owning AppNexus, AT&T can use its data to improve the value of the ads it sells via additional audience data, slice up its ad sales into more nuanced segments, and extend audience-based ad sales across AppNexus’ ad exchange.

We’ll have a more detailed report on this deal in tomorrow’s 451 Market Insight.

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