AT&T Opens A Private Marketplace Powered By Videology To Beat ‘Black Box’ TV Planning

JasonBrownAT&T has officially entered the programmatic TV fray.

The carrier on Thursday revealed the launch of a private marketplace called the Video Inventory Platform (“VIP” for short), which Jason Brown, AT&T AdWorks’ VP of national advertising sales, told AdExchanger was a “data-optimized TV and video planning tool.”

The product will be generally available in Q3 and will let advertisers programmatically purchase linear inventory from AT&T U-verse and DirecTV.

AT&T is using Videology’s tech as its underlying platform infrastructure. VIP is one of the first major ad products AT&T has released since its $49 billion merger last year with DirecTV.

“Even though we’re sitting on 32 million set-top boxes, 12 million of which provide return-path data (or second-by-second viewership data), we were a little on the sidelines until now because we needed scale,” said Brown. “We consistently heard from the market, ‘We don’t need any more black boxes.’”

But AT&T isn’t alone. Individual networks and broadcasters are also bringing more automation into their private marketplaces, as NBC did last week. But Brown claimed buyers want to see the highest-indexed shows across numerous cable networks, not single sources of inventory.

Nevertheless, he knows AT&T isn’t going to be a one-stop shop.

“We’re not naïve,” he added. “We know we’re at 26 million households and [advertisers] will use these insights to inform their broader national buys outside of AT&T and that’s OK because data is perishable. We know product cycles and program schedules change all the time.” 

Although Brown didn’t describe VIP as a data management platform, advertiser clients can bring their first-party data segments to the table and match those segments against third-party or other data segments anonymously.

It’s important to note that AT&T is not opening up any new data segments with this launch and it doesn’t support real-time bidding. “We already had data addressable products,” said Maria Mandel Dunsche, AT&T AdWorks’ VP of marketing. “This is automating the planning process further.”

AT&T’s motivation is to create private trading relationships with agencies with much tighter turnarounds on plans (48 hours instead of days or weeks).

AT&T has enabled household addressable buys for three years, so it’s no stranger to data-enabled targeting. But Brown said the launch of VIP will help migrate his sales team into a more consultative role in data-driven linear TV planning.

“They might want to optimize with data to prove out effectiveness across the entire purchasing funnel, prove out effective reach or even track a lift in website visitation for a considered purchase, such as an automobile,” he said.

A big client request, he claimed, is greater transparency in the planning process. While the word “programmatic” is loaded for many traditional networks and cable constituents, Brown said AT&T wants to bring premium inventory to the table, not “remnant leftovers a network didn’t sell.”

AT&T has more than 130 million “customer connections” across mobile and broadband, said Brown, and although it’s beginning the automated planning process with VIP for linear TV, it’s certainly looking to extend that capability across all its platforms.

The most obvious extension would be AT&T/DirecTV’s new streaming video options, which it revealed earlier this week. Offerings such as DirecTV Mobile and DirecTV Preview feature low-cost pricing models or are free/ad-supported.

“John Stankey (CEO of AT&T Entertainment Group) said yesterday we’re taking a different approach,” AT&T spokeswoman Mari Melguizo told AdExchanger. In short, simply offering a skinny bundle isn’t the be-all, end-all with consumers.

“We’re saying, ‘Bring your Internet connection, whether that’s AT&T or not,’ while we bring a premium range of content across devices,” she added. “We’re already working through new programming deals and looking for ways to account for [multi-viewer household] streams.”

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1 Comment

  1. John Szczygiel

    This is a brilliant strategy for AT&T.

    The challenge will be in the execution.