Xandr CEO talks about how AT&T will use wireless subscribers' data to target TV ads

Brian Lesser (CNBC)

AT&T and its newly named advertising and analytics business Xandr have been touting the potential for combining customer data and targeted TV ads.

Xandr CEO Brian Lesser sat down with CNBC to expand some of what that will actually mean for consumers. Lesser said right now the fastest growing part of Xandr’s business is Advanced Television, a product that uses AT&T’s subscriber data to target TV advertising for different households.

Lesser said AT&T’s privacy policy will prevent it from using some customer data for its targeted ads. He also said that AT&T’s subscribers can opt out of the data programs if they want. But he said Xandr will use data generated when AT&T subscribers use web browsers or services like DirecTV Now on their phones to target ads across mobile and TV.

“Most of the information we get has to do with how AT&T interacts with you. So, if it’s an app like the AT&T app, if it’s DirecTV, if it’s other information that you give us being a customer, that’s the information we gather,” said Lesser. “The policy is that, the data we collect from our customers always stays with our systems and we don’t sell data for advertising purposes.”

RELATED: AT&T officially rebrands its ad business as Xandr

AT&T’s customer data come from 170 million direct-to-consumer relationships across its wireless video and broadband businesses, 40 million set-top boxes, 20 million connected cars and more.

The plan to use more consumer data in targeting ads is not a new concept, and it's meant to help AT&T better compete with digital platforms like Facebook and Google, who have been collecting user data to better serve ads for years.

AT&T last week officially unveiled Xandr, which combines the company’s existing advertising business, its internal data project and AppNexus, the ad tech firm the company acquired this summer.

Xandr also announced last week it has agreements with Altice USA and Frontier Communications to aggregate and sell their national addressable TV advertising inventory. Those agreements are meant to help establish a national TV marketplace for advertisers and content publishers. Xandr said it will also collaborate with a4, Altice USA’s advanced advertising business, to help expand a4’s nationwide addressable digital advertising capabilities.