AT&T, Citing Google and Facebook, Wants to Make Billions in TV Ads

In early 2016, well before AT&T struck a deal to buy Time Warner Inc., CEO Randall Stephenson publicly prodded employees to gear up for Google, Amazon and other online giants.Early this month, AT&T fired another salvo in that direction. It recruited a New York ad executive, Brian Lesser, to head a new advertising and analytics unit to capitalize on the Time Warner addition, which is expected to be approved by the end of the year.In announcing the hire, Stephenson again referred to Google — indirectly — and made a veiled reference to Facebook. AT&T has a chance to follow their lead, he said, in reinventing the advertising business.“We believe there is an opportunity to build an automated advertising platform that can do for premium video and TV advertising what the search and social media companies have done for digital advertising,” Stephenson said in a statement.That’s aiming high, to be sure. Google and Facebook have built dominant, hugely profitable businesses in the digital space. In the most recent quarter, each earned roughly as much as AT&T — over $3.5 billion — and with far fewer employees. More telling, Google’s stock market value is almost three time higher than AT&T’s, and Facebook’s is twice as high.Buying Time Warner, which includes HBO, CNN, Turner and Warner Bros. studios, could start to close the gap. But only if AT&T can leverage the assets of the third-largest entertainment company.  Continue reading...

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