AT&T’s Xandr Invest Platform Adds A+E Networks and Crown Media

Ad-tech unit's chief eyes publisher and telco tie-ups to boost international expansion

mike welch
Mike Welch took over as head of Xandr in August. Xandr
Headshot of Andrew Blustein

Following months of departures and shakeups, AT&T-owned Xandr is now focused on bolstering its video offerings to capture the growing pool of ad dollars flowing into advanced TV.

The focus on video, especially connected TV and data-driven linear advertising, comes as media companies at large restructure their businesses to grow their streaming offerings, and as technologies enter the market that allow networks to sell addressable inventory.

WarnerMedia, Xandr’s sister company, has undergone a massive overhaul since Jason Kilar entered as CEO in May. Last week the company laid off between 5% and 7% of its 25,000 employees, and some of those cuts hit Xandr.

Mike Welch, head of Xandr, said the cuts at the ad-tech company were much smaller than those at WarnerMedia, though neither he nor a Xandr spokesperson confirmed the exact extent of the layoffs.

Welch now leads Xandr following successive leadership changes and a reorganization. Former CEO Brian Lesser unexpectedly left Xandr in March, then his interim replacement Kirk McDonald left to become GroupM’s North America boss in August. In the months between, AT&T consolidated Xandr and WarnerMedia’s ad sales units under Gerhard Zeiler, CRO at WarnerMedia.

Now that he’s in charge, Welch said his remit is to grow Xandr’s marketplace and build toward a future of converged video buying.

“What I’ve been asked to do is just drive profitable growth with a focus on our converged video business, and we’re well on our way,” Welch said.

Xandr kickstarted some of that growth earlier in the year when it added Disney, WarnerMedia and AMC Networks to its Invest TV buying platform. Today, the company announced it’s added A+E Networks and Crown Media to the mix.

“We continue to believe that we should make it as easy for our partners … to be able to access not only our content but our audiences. And whether it’s direct or automated, make it seamless,” said Santosh Mathai, vp of precision and performance platform partnerships at A+E Networks.

With the two new networks on board, Xandr said its platform now reaches 90% of the U.S. population.

Xandr Invest allows buyers to run data-driven linear ad campaigns, meaning they can target audiences beyond traditional age and gender demographics. Welch said the next major investment will focus on merging its data-driven linear with connected TV offerings to create a converged set of products on both the buy and sell sides.

“If you think of the consumer, they’re watching a 60-inch TV hanging on the wall. Whether it’s connected to a set top box or some sort of streaming device, they don’t care. To them it’s just TV, and we want to make the buying of that similarly as seamless,” Welch said.

Addressable TV ad spend is expected to reach $2.88 billion this year and $3.49 billion next year, according to eMarketer. CTV spend is forecast to hit $8.88 billion this year and $10.81 billion next year, according to the research firm.

Welch said video now comprises almost 40% of all spend that runs through Xandr, and he expects it to account for the majority of spend by the middle of next year.

Xandr only operates its TV business in the U.S., though Welch said the company is in talks to trial the tech internationally, with Europe likely as the first stop.

Xandr’s ad stack for digital inventory is available internationally. Welch said international buyers account for one-third of its digital business, and it’s growing faster than the domestic platform.

@andrewblustein Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.