WarnerMedia's Turner unit is exiting the OpenAP ad consortium

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WarnerMedia’s Turner unit isexiting OpenAP, the industry ad consortium founded in 2017 and which came to include Turner, Viacom, Fox Networks Group, NBCUniversal, and Univision, per The Wall Street Journal. The other members will remain, and plan to continue expanding the platform.

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When it launched, OpenAP hoped to achieve scale and targeting precision that would make advanced TV advertising competitive with the duopoly. The consortium’s overarching goal was to standardize the categories for buying TV commercials on different networks. OpenAP set out to do this by consolidating inventory across its members’ owned networks and enabling data-driven, audience-based ad buying against TV content.

Here’s what it means: WarnerMedia is deprioritizing its participation in collaborative, scalable opportunities like OpenAP, in favor of its own data-supported ad offerings.

AT&T is likely prioritizing its own addressable TV ad buying platform under a new division called Xandr, which it launched last September. In February, AT&Tconsolidated all its programmatic digital ad spending. In addition to applying Xandr to ad buying on its own properties, including withinTurner, Xandr is looking to build a platform for buying TV advertising that will ultimately attract non-AT&T companies.

WarnerMedia is also launching its own direct-to-consumer streaming service in early 2020, which is expected to be a hybrid product with both ad-supported and subscription-based tiers. Next up is the launch of WarnerMedia’s DTC streaming services, where we also expect it will prioritize ad sales.

AT&T announces Q1 earnings on Wednesday, when it’s likely to clarify more of its plans around data-driven TV advertising. Since joining OpenAP in 2017, WarnerMedia has drastically transformed and is now in full integration mode with new parent AT&T: The telecom completed its acquisition of Time Warner in mid-2018, rebranded it as WarnerMedia, and essentially dissolved the Turner Broadcasting unit amid broad restructuring.

The bigger picture: WarnerMedia’s departure from the consortium signals that offerings like OpenAP could become increasingly less meaningful for programmers and providers.

As more companies shift to direct-to-consumer streaming, collaboration makes less sense — each company is aiming to scale its own product, and is keeping its own audience data close to the chest. Also, consolidation across the industry has meant that now two media conglomerates — NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia — are owned by operators: Comcast and AT&T, respectively.

As a result, they have large, built-in bases of rich customer data upon which to build their own scalable addressable ad platforms. That could mean that the advanced TV market will further fragment, which could derail efforts to create new industry standards for addressable TV advertising that can help it to grow and scale across the industry.

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