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AT&T Pushes Forward on New Advertising Company, As DOJ Presses on Time Warner

AT&T’s $85 billion bid to acquire Time Warner is under new scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice but that hasn’t kept the telecommunications company from devising new units that will hinge on the purchase reaching completion.

AT&T on Thursday named Kirk McDonald the chief marketing officer of a new advertising and analytics unit it has set up to work with the new Time Warner properties. In August, AT&T said it intended”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.”

The company at the time hired Brian Lesser, the chief executive of the North American operations of WPP’s large GroupM consortium of media-buying agencies, to serve as chief executive of the new unit. Lesser will report directly to AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson, and is charged with building and leading “an advertising and analytics business using the company’s unique customer data and growing content assets.”

The move shows AT&T trying to press forward as if the merger will take place, though this week the DOJ met with AT&T officials and told them they needed to divest Time Warner’s Turner Networks, which include CNN, Turner Classic Movies, and TBS, for the deal to proceed, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. There were also reports that the DOJ told AT&T that it could instead sell DirecTV to secure approval.

Speaking at an industry conference Thursday, Stephenson said the company did not feel it had to sell anything, and was prepared to defend its position in court. “We’re prepared to litigate now,” Stephenson said. “This is a classic vertical merger. There are no overlaps of competition. There are no competitors being taken out of this market.”

McDonald joins AT&T from PubMatic, Inc., an advertising technology company, where he was responsible for the company’s go-to market functions worldwide. Prior to PubMatic, he was president of Digital at Time, Inc. “Kirk brings invaluable experience in the media and advertising technology space,” said Lesser, in a statement.  “He is a transformational leader – one of many who will join AT&T as we invest in and build a new kind of advertising business.”

 

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