AT&T Completes Sale of Xandr Ad Unit to Microsoft

(Image credit: Xandr)

In a terse announcement, AT&T said it completed the sale of its Xandr ad unit to Microsoft, further removing itself from its failed and costly foray into the media business.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but reports indicated that the price was about $1 billion.

The transaction does not include the advertising sales business of DirecTV, which was spun off by AT&T last year.

AT&T assembled Xandr to be an advanced advertising powerhouse designed to use data about the company‘s huge mobile phone and broadband customer base to sell targeted ads on DirecTV and digital platforms. 

When AT&T subsequently acquired Time Warner, that was supposed to give Xandr more inventory to work with. AT&T wound up spinning off what became WarnerMedia earlier this year to Discovery

AT&T paid about $1.5 billion for digital ad-buying platform AppNexus in 2016 and hired Brian Lesser from GroupM, who turned AT&T Advertising into Xandr, with a goal of becoming an advanced-TV powerhouse.

Lesser suddenly left Xandr in 2020 amid management changes at AT&T and WarnerMedia. Other top Xandr executives have also left the company.

When it announced the deal, Microsoft was expected to Xandr to help sell digital ads on several platforms, including its Xbox video game platform.

“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,“ Mikhail Parakhin, president of web experiences at Microsoft, said last year. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.