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National Wireless Independent Dealer Association

Will AT&T Lower Cell Phone Plans by Including Ads?

AT&T - NWIDAAT&T is considering offering wireless phone plans partially subsidized by advertising as soon as a year from now, according to their Chief Executive John Stankey.

“I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey said.

Other companies including Amazon and Boost Mobile have tested advertising supported phone services since the early 2000s but it has not caught on. AT&T is hoping that better advertising targeting could revive the idea.

The planned launch of an ad-supported version of the AT&T owned HBO Max next year will serve as a “foundation” that will provide new advertising inventory, and would be key to new phone plans supported by ads, Stankey said without offering details.

Stankey said ad-supported phone plans could be introduced in “a year or two.”

According to Stankey, AT&T engineers are creating “unified customer identifiers.”  The technology would allow marketers to identify users across multiple devices and serve them relevant advertising. The ability to fine tune ad targeting would allow AT&T to sell ads at higher rates, he said.

In March, AT&T’s Xandr struck a partnership deal with Disney and AMC Networks to let advertisers buy TV commercials across the networks.

The plan could face challenges as consumers express rising concern about tracking of their media use across platforms and laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act have been passed.

“I don’t know if we can count on it in perpetuity,” Stankey said, referring to the use of non-AT&T-owned data.



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