By Jon Jackson, CEO

AT&T’s upcoming acquisition of AppNexus rubber stamps what we’ve been saying for years now: Carriers will be the next big mobile media players. By acquiring online advertising and publishing partners, carriers like AT&T have firmly given themselves 2 of the 4 legs of the stool needed to sit at the table with the likes of Google and Facebook. The one thing they don’t have yet is the innovation in UI/UX and Artificial Intelligence to keep the content in front of their subscribers eyes.

As we’ve seen, the world is trending towards wanting things simple and easy – and tomorrow’s winners will be those that remove the friction between subscribers and the things they love. That’s why the innovation is key – having the content, advertising, and subscribers are needed, but you still need to find a way to get people to see it. To rephrase an old saying, if a content tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to see it, will it net you dollars? The answer will be a resounding no!

Let’s recap the 4-legged mobile media player stool:

  1. Reach: As I point out in the Wall Street Journal article above, AT&T has over a hundred million subscribers that open their phone 120 times a day. So they definitely have eyeballs – although still not near the reach of Facebook or Google.
  2. Monetization: Combining the AppNexus acquisition with their wealth of data on wireless customers, AT&T can target ads to the right audience to optimize monetization and yield high returns per subscriber.
  3. Time Spent: AT&T already has DIRECTV and Time Warner to secure the digital time taken by the streaming long form content. However, there are literally billions of micro-moments their subscribers have each month where they unlock their phone looking to be entertained with 30 seconds or less to spare.  AT&T needs to capture these moments by delivering snackable content at the right time, it has the right appeal for their on the go subscribers.
  4. Frequency: And here is the big rub! Much like Verizon with Oath, having content and advertising does not guarantee eyeballs and dollars. You also need mobile innovation to keep content in front of their subscribers preferably through AI & machine learning so that it is useful for the consumer and is done in an efficient and scalable way for their business.

It’s great to see carriers making their way towards competing with the ad giants Google and Facebook. Their next step is a mobile innovation that is smart, reliable, and unique that offers their subscribers great content no matter how long they might have to engage.