AT&T might soon offer phone plans with ads in exchange for discounts

CEO John Stankey floated the idea of offering discounts for some kind of ad-enhanced experience in an interview.

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Almost everyone hates how egregious online advertising has become in recent years, so much so that even telecom CEOs are now admitting it publicly. In a recent interview, AT&T's John Stankey revealed the company is considering offering ad-subsidized phone plans in the near future. The idea of users receiving data plan discounts in exchange for some form of additional advertising isn't anything new to cell phone carriers, but AT&T's potential presents what could be one of the largest attempts yet within the marketplace.

"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 told Reuters yesterday while also admitting the company has been "slower in coming up the curve" regarding letting advertisers employ the company's user data in targeting other companies' customers.

Look for an HBO Max trial run — While there aren't any real specifics yet on how an ad-subsidization plan would look for AT&T, Stankey explained that next year's release of an ad-supported version of its streaming service, HBO Max, will serve as a "foundational element" in strategizing similar options for its phone plans within "the next year or two." In the end, it will all come down to what AT&T's CEO refers to as "unified customer identifiers," which allows for horizontal integration of various devices in order to sell people potentially relevant advertising.

If all this sounds somewhat like opening up a whole new avenue for corporate invasions of privacy, don't worry: you aren't alone. As consumer concern grows over corporate and governmental data tracking, AT&T will have to tread carefully in how it proceeds with harvesting all of our precious, precious data identifiers, often from information gathered outside the company. Even the company's CEO admits that the plan may not be foolproof.

"I don't know if we can count on the plan in perpetuity," he said, regarding AT&T's use and implementation of third-party-owned data.

Catching up with the competition — AT&T is far from the only company toying with new and improved ways to annoy the hell out of us through advertising and personal data invasions. YouTube recently announced it will allow mid-roll ads within videos less than ten minutes long, while Facebook promised us a reprieve from (misleading, dangerous) political ads only in the final week leading up to the presidential election.

If you're looking for at least a brief pause in the online awfulness, you can check out how to best get rid of all those horrible Trump-tastic ads showing up YouTube, at least.