AT&T's Xandr launches TV ad buying tool, partners with Disney

(Reuters) - AT&T Inc’s advertising unit Xandr said Wednesday it is partnering with Walt Disney Co, AMC Networks and sister company WarnerMedia to make it easier for advertisers to buy TV commercials across the networks.

Since forming Xandr in 2018, phone carrier AT&T has sought to allow advertisers to target certain audiences using AT&T data, which it gathers from offering phone, internet and TV services. The moves are part of an effort by the TV industry as a whole to catch up to digital advertising behemoths like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook, where the ability to target ads has long been more advanced.

Advertisers will be able to use a new version of a self-serve tool called Xandr Invest to define an audience they want to reach, such as people in the market to buy a car, and then place a single order through the tool that will find the commercial slots across its partners that will reach those viewers.

WarnerMedia, which is also owned by AT&T, includes cable channels like TNT and CNN, while Disney owns broadcaster ABC and sports network ESPN. AMC Networks includes the BBC America and IFC channels.

A benefit to partnering on Xandr Invest is the tool allows AMC to control the pricing of its ads and whom it works with, said Evan Adlman, senior vice president of advanced advertising and digital partnerships at AMC.

While Xandr Invest serves as the technology to buy ads and target audiences across the partners, the networks themselves will retain control in selling the ad space, said Mike Welch, executive vice president of product and business development at Xandr.

The new TV ad buying capabilities are meant to round out Xandr’s appeal to advertisers, which historically had a focus on internet display ads, Welch added.

The new version of Xandr Invest launches just ahead of the upfront season in May, a critical annual advertising sales period where brands preview the upcoming TV season and buy commercials in advance.

Reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama