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AT&T agrees to sell Xandr ad unit to Microsoft

US network operator AT&T has agreed to sell its programmatic advertising operation Xandr, launched just 3 years ago, to Microsoft.

The deal, which is subject to some regulatory reviews, would beef up Microsoft’s toolbelt in the digital advertising space with the abilities of Xandr’s data-driven programmatic advertising tech, which operated in the digital, TV and film arenas.

“Microsoft’s shared vision of empowering a free and open web and championing an open industry alternative via a global advertising marketplace makes it a great fit for Xandr,” said Xandr’s EVP and GM Mike Welch. “We look forward to using our innovative platform to help accelerate Microsoft’s digital advertising and retail media capabilities.”

Mikhail Parakhin, President of Web Experiences at Microsoft added: “With Xandr’s talent and technology, Microsoft can accelerate the delivery of its digital advertising and retail media solutions, shaping tomorrow’s digital ad marketplace into one that respects consumer privacy preferences, understands publishers’ relationships with consumers and helps advertisers meet their goals.“

In recent years AT&T has spent a lot on M&A, acquiring various content, media and advertising assets and many of these ended up getting merged into Xandr.

At launch in 2018 it was explained that Xandr will combine the distribution and data capabilities of AT&T, the content catalogues from Time Warner, Frontier and Altice USA, and the technology platform of AppNexus to create a cross platform advertising operation.

At the time CEO Brian Lesser was bold in describing Xandr’s mission statement: “Our purpose is to Make Advertising Matter and to connect people with the brands and content they care about. Throughout AT&T’s 142-year history, it has innovated with data and technology, making its customers’ lives better. Xandr will bring that spirit of innovation to the advertising industry.”

However AT&T has been looking for ways to pay down debts ever since the Time Warner purchase, and there were reports in early 2020 that the Xandr unit could be up for sale.

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