Xandr is putting video at the center of its new supply-side strategy

Xandr Monetize rounds out Xandr's year-long buy- and sell-side reconfiguration

Nearly a year after AT&T introduced its advertising company to the world, Xandr has unveiled the product vision for its newly-named sell-side platform (SSP), Xandr Monetize.

The proliferation of internet-enabled TV means advertisers are demanding that more TV inventory be made available programmatically. Michael Richardson, Xandr’s vice-president of publisher products, said opening up that inventory has been a “major area of focus” for Xandr.

Xandr says Monetize lays the groundwork for its future TV capabilities, as over-the-top (OTT) streaming services continues to disrupt the ecosystem.

Xandr Monetize’s tentpole offering is Programmatic OTT with Prebid. The company says its new programmatic OTT offering can solve for frequency capping and enable competitive separation across SSPs and digital TV inventory, namely on connected TVs. It will be available through real-time bidding and private marketplace deals.

“Programmatic OTT with Prebid has been a major area of investment to make sure we can bring on as much programmatic premium video supply as possible,” said Richardson,” and give sellers the ability to get a lot more options about how they transact and sell that inventory in a safe way.”

Xandr is now bolstering its SSP’s video offering after showing off its new video-focused ad marketplace in May, and updating its buy-side platform in June to ready for the growth of streaming video.

Richardson has his roots in AppNexus, the adtech outfit AT&T purchased in June 2018 and eventually rolled into Xandr. He said the AppNexus tech underlies all of Xandr Monetize, which includes the SSP, an ad server and yield analytics forecasting division, formerly Yieldex.

However, neither AppNexus nor Xandr have necessarily been seen as video-centric SSPs. That market is generally ruled by the likes of SpotX, FreeWheel and Telaria.

The problem legacy SSPs can have is they’ll build their video tech stack on top of their existing mobile stack, which is based off of underlying tech originally built for display.

Programmatic OTT with Prebid isn’t entirely new since it works with existing Prebid technologies – a server-to-server header bidding solution – but Xandr Monetize did have to build unique components when developing the tech.

Richardson said Xandr Monetize is in the business of “holistic inventory management,” so the group is working to develop best practices in programmatic OTT in order to catch up to its capabilities in more mature environments, such as display.

“Moving from an area where you don't have any type of header bidding technology on premium video, and now that you will with Programmatic OTT with Prebid, I think that's going to be... where we’re looking for best practices,” said Richardson.

Xandr Monetize is also offering programmatic guaranteed deals and introducing Prebid Server Premium, what it calls a simplified server-side header bidding solution for both its SSP and ad server customers.

Richardson said Prebid Server Premium will allow customers to work with other SSPs and have them all be pulled into one auction through server-side connections, acting as a single source of clearing.

Richardson added that while there’s still growth in the display, the uptick in connected devices has Xandr – and the advertising industry at large – focusing on growth in OTT.

Reprioritizing an SSP around the future of TV is a challenge as the technical lift to programmatically serve OTT ads is comparatively massive. While the basic concept of header bidding is similar in OTT and display – an SSP makes a bid and the ad server makes a call – the ad server has to do a lot more work in OTT.

Larger video files, creative versioning and fragmentation across consumer touchpoints are just a handful of new hurdles in OTT programmatic ad delivery.

Xandr can at least test and iterate its tech offerings quickly thanks to its fit within the AT&T family. WarnerMedia, another AT&T-owned property, was one of the first publishers to test Programmatic OTT with Prebid.

Amit Chaturvedi, WarnerMedia ad sales executive vice-president, head of revenue operations and ad products, said: “Developed with our sales needs in mind, Programmatic OTT with Prebid will be essential to better managing inventory within client campaigns and realizing higher yield for our premium content. We have already tested it and are very excited to deploy this capability across the WarnerMedia digital portfolio."

Richardson said that ability to lean on other companies in AT&T’s portfolio “definitely” helps Xandr boost speed-to-market.

“There's certainly a very familiar relationship,” said Richardson. “We can share a lot more information and work a lot more closely. It's definitely not a situation where we're pushing things on other companies. We're coordinating really closely together and innovating together.”

Xandr would not comment on whether WarnerMedia inventory will be sold exclusively through Monetize, saying the company is not yet ready to discuss long-term plans.

Xandr would not say if the company would make aggregated, anonymized consumer data from AT&T available to advertisers.

“Xandr Monetize is the technology that a seller would use to make their inventory available in Community,” said a Xandr spokesperson, referring to the company’s recently created video marketplace. “Community is layered with Xandr Audience Segments that are built from AT&T’s 170 million direct-to-consumer relationships.”

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