Despite Xandr’s positioning as the TV platform of the future during its Relevance Conference in Santa Barbara last week, agency buyers want to see more progress toward that goal.
Certainly, Xandr has the right assets and strategy to create a programmatic marketplace for TV. Over the past year, Xandr launched a publisher network called Community, relaunched AppNexus’ DSP as Xandr Invest and revamped AppNexus’ SSP into Xandr Monetize. Xandr also created a universal ID that stitches AT&T subscriber data to third-party segments for targeting within these environments.
“One year after the creation of Xandr, we’re proud of the progress we’ve made, launching marquee solutions for both buyers and sellers, including Community, Xandr Invest, and Xandr Monetize,” a Xandr spokesperson said. “We work closely with clients to continuously expand features and capabilities that drive results for brands and agencies, while protecting consumer privacy.”
But Xandr’s goal to create a platform where buyers can plan, buy and measure media against a single audience across linear and digital inventory from multiple sellers still feels a long way off. Here are three things Xandr needs to do to assure agency buyers its making progress on that central vision.
- Explain how developed the Xandr ID is – and clarify the roadmap
Xandr is developing a universal ID that ties together data on AT&T’s 170 million subscribers to digital IDs and cookies within Xandr Invest. Buyers can use this ID to identify high-value customers and target them across linear and digital inventory.
But it’s not yet clear how well stitched together AT&T’s central data assets are across its mobile, satellite and broadband subscribers, or how closely tied that is to digital data within Xandr Invest.
It’s a complex undertaking fraught with regulatory concerns, and Xandr’s product timelines and roadmaps aren’t always clear. Buyers don’t know how far along Xandr is in that process.
“The vision is very clear and compelling,” said John Lee, chief product and data officer at Merkle. “What everyone is wondering is, what is the roadmap for when Xandr will be able to deliver the seamless stitching of ID’s across all of these domains, along with the availability of its data?”
The buyers that AdExchanger spoke to expect Xandr to figure these complexities out within 18 months.
“The story up until now is the potential of what their collective assets can deliver,” said Evan Hanlon, chief strategy officer at GroupM. “The pressure is on now to deliver, as buyers are anxious to see what they can do in practice.”
- Combine TV and digital inventory
Since relaunching, the Xandr Invest DSP has added workflow automation that’s impacted business, said Megan Pagliuca, chief data officer at Hearts & Science, AT&T’s media agency. It’s now easier for agencies to integrate their planning and buying interfaces with Xandr Invest’s, as well as their own inventory graphs and private marketplaces.
“There is such a strong engineering background there and it’s a very API-driven DSP,” she said. “That is something that has been a struggle with other platforms.”
Xandr Invest is also gearing up for the convergence of TV and digital with enhancements like better data integrations and macro-data sets.
But buyers are still waiting for Xandr Invest to merge linear and addressable TV buying with digital and OTT inventory. Today, that capability is available as a managed service, so buyers can’t see how precise the audience matching is.
“When they start to expose more of the planning capability we’ll get a sense of how real it is or isn’t,” Hanlon said. “At that point, the numbers will or won’t make sense.”
- Maximize the value of WarnerMedia inventory first
Some buyers think that Xandr, which launched in 2018 with a grand vision to build a TV inventory marketplace powered by AT&T data, is trying to solve too many problems at once.
Rather than solving all of TV’s problems, buyers wonder if Xandr should focus on monetizing WarnerMedia’s inventory with AT&T data first, a process which they believe is still in early innings.
After all, Google cornered the search market and Facebook dominated social before spreading that leverage everywhere else, Hanlon said.
“If Xandr can show they can extract maximum value from the media and data they have control over, it will make the platform more attractive to third-party inventory,” he said. “Dealing with open market players is much more complicated from both a relationship and a technical perspective, so they need those proof points.”
While Community is growing – Xandr announced Bloomberg and Vudu as new partners last week – Xandr will likely still face trouble wooing major competitors like Comcast/FreeWheel and Google onto its network. That could become even more challenging as Xandr controls more dollars flowing into the market through Xandr Invest.
But if anyone can pull it off…
Pressure is mounting on Xandr to show value, just as it’s mounting on its parent company AT&T, which has been buffeted recently by speculation that it might offload DirecTV, and a memo from activist investor Elliott Management questioning the company’s acquisitions.
Despite these concerns, buyers agree that no other company has the data, technology, content, distribution and engineering chops to pull off what Xandr is aiming to do.
“The AppNexus technology teams are incredibly strong,” Hanlon said. “With the reliability of funding that comes from AT&T, they are able to do a lot on that front.”