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Microsoft takes Xandr ad platform off AT&T’s hands

Mike Welch Xandr Microsoft.jpg

AT&T has offloaded its advertising platform, Xandr, to Microsoft, marking another stage in its withdrawal from the media world.

Neither Microsoft nor AT&T have disclosed a price for Xandr, which was founded in 2018 and then moved into AT&T’s WarnerMedia business, which it is offloading at a huge loss to the Discovery channel.

Xandr’s EVP and general manager, Mike Welch (pictured), welcomed the move from big telco to big cloud. “Microsoft’s shared vision of empowering a free and open web and championing an open industry alternative via a global advertising marketplace makes it a great fit for Xandr,” he said.

“We look forward to using our innovative platform to help accelerate Microsoft’s digital advertising and retail media capabilities.”

AT&T said the agreement “builds on a decade-long relationship between Xandr, including its predecessor companies, and Microsoft for delivering global digital media solutions for advertisers”.

Mikhail Parakhin, president of web experiences at Microsoft, said: “With Xandr’s talent and technology, Microsoft can accelerate the delivery of its digital advertising and retail media solutions, shaping tomorrow’s digital ad marketplace into one that respects consumer privacy preferences, understands publishers’ relationships with consumers and helps advertisers meet their goals.”

According to Xandr’s own website, “it started as a collective of legacies and passions. From the former AppNexus marketplace and enterprise technology, to AT&T’s data assets, Clypd’s technology platform, to our partnership with AT&T and WarnerMedia, we’ve joined together to move the industry forward and to solve for advertisings greatest challenges.”

AT&T bought WarnerMedia, as it is now called, for US$60 billion in 2018, despite fierce opposition from then president Donald Trump and his administration, which was still fighting the deal well into 2019, when the US government has lost an appeal against the deal.

But AT&T’s expansionism was the mission of then CEO Randall Stephenson, and it was reversed when former CTO John Stankey became CEO from July 2020.

The new management led to AT&T’s offloading of a 71% share in WarnerMedia to Discovery, which spent $43 million and effectively gained control.

Since then AT&T has sold other businesses acquired under Stephenson, such as Playdemic, a mobile games studio that produces Golf Clash. Games company Electronic Arts (EA) agreed to pay AT&T $1.4 billion in cash for it.

More significantly, and more painfully, AT&T sold DirecTV, the new standalone entity that owns and operate DirecTV, AT&T TV and U-verse video services. TPG, the US private equity investor that is not connected with the Australian telco of the same name, bought it for $7.1 billion in cash and adopted approximately $195 million of video business debt.

Six years ago AT&T had paid $49 billion for just the DirecTV satellite business, and separately had spent billions developing AT&T TV and U-verse.

AT&T and Microsoft said about the Xandr deal: “As the digital landscape evolves in a post-cookie world, Microsoft and Xandr can shape the digital ad marketplace of the future. Xandr’s technology strategically complements Microsoft’s current advertising offerings and will help accelerate delivery of digital advertising and retail media solutions for the open web by combining Microsoft’s audience intelligence, technology and global advertising customer-base with Xandr’s scaled, data-driven platform.”

Next on the list for Microsoft to ponder: will it keep the Xandr name, which is an abbreviation of Alexander Graham Bell, AT&T’s ultimate founder? Though it’s doubtful if anyone ever dared to call Bell “Xandr”.

 

 

 

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