Bid to share data

MEDIA companies plan to ask US regulators to force AT&T Inc and Time Warner Inc to share their trove of customer data if the telecom and content companies merge, fearing the combined behemoth would have an unfair advantage selling targeted mobile advertising, a handful of media executives told Reuters this week.

Customer data has become a key to the media industry’s future as TV networks strive to provide the same kind of advertising as digital companies such as Alphabet’s Google and Facebook Inc (FB.O), which tailor pitches according to what they know about their customers.

AT&T’s proposed $US85 billion ($F174b) acquisition of Time Warner would give the media company’s networks, such as HBO, Cinemax and Turner, potentially unprecedented data about viewers who have AT&T cell phones and DirecTV accounts.

The deal will be reviewed by the US Justice Department, and it is unclear how the enforcement agency would approach customer data access as an antitrust issue since it has not yet arisen as a source of contention in a major US deal.

With the rise of online and mobile video streaming services, the promise of sending different ads to different viewers appears attainable, starting a race among established media brands.

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