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Exclusive: AT&T considers mobile phone plans subsidized by ads

(Reuters) – AT&T Inc T.N is considering offering partially advertising-subsidized wireless phone plans within a year from today, chief executive John Stankey said in an interview Tuesday.

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

“I believe there is a segment of our customer base where, given the choice, they would get some advertising for a $ 5 or $ 1

0 reduction on their cell phone bill,” Stankey said.

Various companies including Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O, Virgin Mobile USA, and Sprint’s Boost Mobile have been testing ad-supported phone services since the early 2000s, but have not been successful. AT&T hopes that better advertising targeting can revive the idea.

The planned launch of an ad-supported version of AT&T HBO Max’s video streaming service next year will serve as a “building block” that will provide new advertising inventory and would be key to new ad-supported phone plans, Stankey said without. offer details.

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

AT&T engineers are creating “unified customer identifiers,” Stankey said. Such technology would allow marketers to identify users across multiple devices and deliver relevant advertising to them.

The ability to optimize ad targeting would allow AT&T to sell ads at higher rates, he said.

AT&T has invested in developing targeted advertising on its media properties using data from its phone, TV and Internet customers, but the company has been “slower to climb the curve” in expanding its market that allows advertisers to use AT&T data for the media company audience, Stankey said.

In March, AT&T’s Xandr struck a deal to partner with Walt Disney Co. DIS.N and AMC networks AMCX.O to allow advertisers to buy TV commercials through the networks.

AT & T’s advertising marketplace, which incorporates data external to AT & T, could face privacy concerns as consumers express growing concern about monitoring their media usage on platforms and laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act have been passed.

“I don’t know if we can count on it forever,” Stankey said, referring to the use of data not owned by AT&T.

Stankey, who last week wrote an editorial for Politico stating that the US government should provide subsidies to encourage companies to build fiber broadband networks in underserved areas, said in a Reuters interview that AT&T believes it could double its fiber footprint if it had the economic incentive.

Optical fibers or optical fibers are thin cables often installed underground that allow businesses to provide Internet services to homes. AT&T uses fiber to deliver the Internet to homes and businesses, as well as to power its 5G network.

AT&T fiber currently runs through 18 million homes in the United States. The company could increase that number from 3 to 5 million homes per year, he added.

Reporting of Sheila Dang in Dallas; Helen Coster, Krystal Hu and Kenneth Li in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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