Exit of AT&T's WarnerMedia could spell trouble for OpenAP

Open AP
With AT&T's WarnerMedia out, OpenAP is now down to Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom. (OpenAP)

AT&T-owned WarnerMedia, a founding member of audience-based ad platform OpenAP, abruptly exited the venture on Friday, and its departure could spell trouble for the fledgling firm.

Variety reported that AT&T left OpenAP so it could pursue its own advanced advertising strategy, which centers on Xandr. Following the 2018 completion of its Time Warner acquisition, AT&T relaunched its data and analytics business; ATT.net; AppNexus and its advanced TV business; and AT&T AdWorks under the Xandr banner.

“As our company has transformed, our advanced advertising strategy has evolved. As a result, we are withdrawing from Open AP,” the company said in a statement. “We appreciate what OpenAP has supported to this point in widening the adoption of audience-based buying on television.”

With WarnerMedia out, that leaves founding members Fox and Viacom, along with NBCUniversal, as the primary stakeholders in OpenAP. Variety reported that Univision, which is not a member of the OpenAP’s board, also still is involved with the venture.

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Why NBC joining OpenAP is a big deal

OpenAP presented a unified front after WarnerMedia left and promised the group’s work would continue.

“Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom remain committed to working together in pursuit of a premium, open, independently verified marketplace that will continue to transform the industry,” said OpenAP in a statement. “Over the next few months, we will be growing and expanding the OpenAP platform to simplify audience buying at scale, and you’ll hear more from us on these exciting developments in the coming days.”

OpenAP losing a founding member looks bad on paper, particularly since it comes just one year after the group gained a powerful ally in NBCUniversal. Jason Damata, founder and CEO of Fabric Media, said OpenAP could be having trouble selling its unified, segment-based audience data as the TV industry still searches for a standard form of audience measurement across traditional television and streaming video.

In the absence of a standard reaching across all viewing platforms, traditional ratings remain a popular yardstick for selling advertising. Damata said that many brands are now working with third parties to gather their own data on audience measurement and ad attribution.

“[Brands] already know exposure rates of TV ads against websites, they know where customers are and aren’t and where the deals are and aren’t and they are being told by these platforms where to buy,” wrote Damata in a blog post. “That said, OpenAP won’t close because networks need an advanced segment solution until such time as ALL brands bring that kind of sophistication to the market i.e. for the foreseeable future. And for many networks, being together is better than being apart.”

OpenAP still has a strong team of broadcasters and programmers at the helm. but losing WarnerMedia, along with its vast troves of pay TV and mobile consumer data, doesn’t help the group’s cause.