AT&T reportedly mulls sale of adtech unit Xandr

AT&T is reportedly mulling the sale of its adtech unit Xandr, according to multiple media reports including Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, a sign that it could be stepping away from its goal of becoming a player in the online ad space. Media reports added that discussions about selling Xandr are in the early stages and may not necessarily lead to a sale. Xandr has offices in countries including Singapore, Japan, Australia, India, Germany, Canada, US, UK and Italy, among others. Marketing has reached out to Xandr for comment on the sale.

Xandr was launched in 2018, months after AT&T acquired software company AppNexus for US$1.6 billion. The acquisition was in a bid to accelerate the growth of its advertising platform and strengthen its leadership in advanced TV advertising, and was also said to be a move to challenge industry heavyweights such as Alphabet. According to a previous press statement by Xandr, the acquisition also extends the telco's advertising and analytics’ footprint globally, expanding into Asia-Pacific, Australia, Europe, and Latin America. Its key advantages were touted to be data, premium content, advanced adtech and AT&T's distribution to more than 170 million direct-to-consumer relationships across wireless, video and broadband. 

AT&T's adtech arm witnessed a leadership change over the past few months when CEO Brian Lesser resigned in March this year, Reuters reported. It added that the telco spent a total of US$134 billion to purchase satellite TV provider DirecTV in 2015 and Time Warner in 2018. Lesser was named CEO of AT&T's advertising and analytics business in 2017 before it was renamed to Xandr. Meanwhile, president Rick Welday also left the company last September, WSJ said

AT&T's journey towards becoming an advertising powerhouse hit a bump in the road when it folded Xandr under WarnerMedia in April this year, shortly after Lesser departed the business. AT&T said the merger aims to create a better advertising value proposition for brands, publishers and consumers alike. WarnerMedia's chief revenue officer and president of WarnerMedia International, Gerhard Zeiler, now oversees all advertising responsibilities across AT&T. Meanwhile, Xandr's chief businses officer Kirk McDonald continues to lead the adtech unit and reports directly to Zeiler.

Zeiler said earlier this year that now more than ever, the company needs to simplify advertising and further its marketplace capabilities for its customers. According to him, this is done through one holistic conversation that spans premium content and trusted environments, alongside proven and advanced ad capabilities. Separately, media reports including Bloomberg also said that AT&T is looking to sell DirecTV and anime streaming platform Crunchyroll

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