Disney, WarnerMedia and AMC Networks Join AT&T’s OpenAP Rival, Xandr Invest

New iteration of platform looks to accelerate TV audience targeting in this upfront

Xandr Invest will be available in open beta beginning this upfront. Xandr
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Key insights:

OpenAP is no longer the only audience targeting platform offering with backing from multiple media companies.

Xandr, AT&T’s advanced advertising company, said today that Disney, WarnerMedia and AMC Networks have signed onto the next iteration of its Xandr Invest buying platform—which will enable advertisers to define a single linear or digital audience across all Xandr Invest partners and use their own first-party data, Nielsen viewership data or Xandr Audience Segments—to improve media buy effectiveness.

Xandr Invest, which will be available in open beta beginning this upfront, will accelerate and streamline automated, data-driven TV buying for clients, the company said. The platform also allows buyers to forecast estimated unified reach all programmers before they buy, measure delivery and reach post-campaign via unified reporting metrics.

The platform’s availability won’t be limited during its upfront open beta. “We think we will take all the demand that’s out there,” said Mike Welch, evp, product and business development, Xandr.

The first iteration of Xandr Invest, AT&T’s rebrand of the AppNexus demand-side platform, debuted last June. Xandr pitched it as a one-stop-shop where advertisers can access multiple types of brand-safe inventory, including linear TV, OTT, mobile and digital video. At the time, the platform was digital-only; today’s news adds linear capabilities to the mix.

Last October, Xandr shored up its linear capabilities by buying Clypd, which gave it similar audience targeting capabilities at scale on the linear side. Invest now takes Xandr’s buy-side capabilities to TV, integrating them with Clypd’s sell-side capabilities.

Xandr said the platform’s first-party data—which includes more than 10 million DirecTV households and more than 700 proprietary audience segments—sets it apart from rivals like OpenAP.

Also, “this is an end-to-end transactional platform, not just an RFP tool,” said Welch. Because Clypd has been integrated into the planning and order management and each programmer’s traffic systems, “buyers don’t need to go back and forth with revised orders constantly,” which will make the buying process smoother, said Welch.

However, “I don’t know if this is as much competitive as it’s complimentary” to OpenAP, said Welch, who noted that the same Nielsen data sources that can be activated within OpenAP will also work with Invest. “From that standpoint, you could make a full audience buy across all the various players, but the data advantage we think sets us apart.”

Still, Xandr Invest’s expansion and new partners does set up a bit of a faceoff between the media companies aligned with Xandr Invest and those who back the OpenAP audience targeting platform: ViacomCBS, Fox, NBCUniversal and Univision. WarnerMedia, which created OpenAP in 2017 with Fox and Viacom, pulled out of the audience targeting platform nearly a year ago. AMC Networks, for now, is the only media company that will be aligned with both offerings this upfront.

Last fall, the OpenAP platform evolved into the OpenAP Market, which is now an open marketplace with premium video advertising inventory and audience-based buying across digital and linear television programming.

Disney went with Invest over OpenAP because “the idea to partner with a technology and a data company versus a consortium was really attractive to us,” said Laura Nelson, svp, cross portfolio solutions, Disney advertising sales.

Also, the company had partnered with AppNexus two years ago and Clypd for the past year, so the decision was organic. Disney reorganized its ad sales team under Disney ad sales chief Rita Ferro in 2018.

“It was really important for us to figure out new ways for us to offer buyers the ability to use data across our linear and digital buys,” said Nelson. “We’re excited about the first phase of this around data-driven linear and how we can offer buyers a self-service tool with unified buying and reach.”

While WarnerMedia has long been a proponent of audience targeting, “a few big challenges” in the marketplace have “limited the speed of adoption,” said Dan Aversano, svp, ad innovation and programmatic solutions, WarnerMedia ad sales. For example, data slows down upfront negotiations because it’s not “consistent” across publishers. That will change with Xandr Invest, which is “like gasoline on the fire” for advanced targeting, he added.

“We’re really excited about it from an upfront standpoint because in the past, while we’ve had loose commitments in the upfront to audience, I think this makes it much more real, and will enable us to do a much larger portion of audience-driven volume in the upfront,” said Aversano.

For AMC Networks, Xandr Invest aligns with the company’s “viewer-first approach” to this upfront, as it works to put content across platforms where its audiences are, said Evan Adlman, svp, advanced advertising and digital partnerships, AMC Networks. “When we think about allowing our marketers to leverage data and to be able to communicate with those consumers, we want to take a buyer’s first approach in the same realm.”

In AMC’s first upfront under new ad sales chief Kim Kelleher, Adlman said: “We want to be able to leverage data to find new audiences, and this platform allows us to open up our audiences in a way that we haven’t been able to before, where I truly believe that new marketers are going to be able to engage with our content, which is exciting.”

In addition to Disney, WarnerMedia and AMC Networks, Xandr hopes to bring other media companies on board to Xandr Invest. Once the platform rolls out, “we’re optimistic that others will want to participate,” said Welch.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.