Skip to main content

AT&T CEO wants you to consume ads in exchange for a slightly cheaper phone plan

AT&T CEO wants you to consume ads in exchange for a slightly cheaper phone plan


The new plan could launch in a “year or two”

Share this story

Illustration of the AT&T logo on a dark blue background.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

AT&T is mulling offering wireless phone plans that would be subsidized in part by ads, CEO John Stankey said in an interview with Reuters.

“I believe there’s a segment of our customer base where given a choice, they would take some load of advertising for a $5 or $10 reduction in their mobile bill,” Stankey said. The new plans could be offered beginning in “a year or two,” according to Stankey.

Is this what healthy wireless industry competition looks like?

AT&T has experimented with at least one form of brand-subsidized phone plan in the past, though it didn’t exactly pass along the savings to you. The “Sponsored Data” program, which was announced back in 2014, let brands pay AT&T so they could deliver their content without counting against your data cap. This sounds like it would be something different, though, directly showing ads to users in some way.

And while it’s unclear exactly what form the ads on this apparent new plan will take, perhaps they’ll look something like what Amazon did with its “Prime Exclusive Phones” — offering a discount on mid-range phones but showing personal ads on the lock screen as the tradeoff.

Phone plans aren’t the only services AT&T plans to subsidize with ads — Stankey has already said that AT&T’s WarnerMedia plans to launch an ad-supported tier of HBO Max, its premium subscription service, early next year.