Report: Media companies to ask regulators for access to AT&T-Time Warner customer data

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A number of media company executives said their networks plan to urge regulators to require shared access to the customer data stemming from a combination of AT&T and Time Warner Inc., according to Reuters.

The fear is that Time Warner networks like CNN and HBO would gain access to viewership data via AT&T’s wireless and pay-TV operations, giving them a potentially big advantage over other networks in terms of selling targeted advertising.

The unnamed media executives in the report point to AT&T and Time Warner being able to give advertisers access to which viewers are watching specific sports teams and have HBO’s OTT service gain access to viewer behavior on rivals like Netflix and Hulu, both of which could give the combined company an unfair advantage with advertisers.

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"The money will gravitate to the programming with that data," one person told Reuters. "We are interested in making sure that we have access to our customer data in the same way that Time Warner will have access to data."

AT&T’s proposed $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner will certainly face an antitrust review by the Department of Justice and will also likely undergo a public interest review by the FCC. It’s likely in both instances, potential access to consumer data would be a point of scrutiny.

In initial comments about the transaction, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has said that the tie-up with Time Warner Inc. specifically revolved around AT&T’s upcoming launch of DirecTV Now, a live linear TV offering delivered via IP. DirecTV Now’s price point has been set at $35 per month and Stephenson has said that, in order to maintain that price while programming costs are sure to rise, AT&T will leverage its Time Warner assets to innovate in advertising.

Stephenson told Reuters that he’d be willing to allow rival content providers access to customer data if it helps keep down programming costs.

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