ISP Digital Media Use


To identify research, data, and insights into how US regional and local ISPs utilize digital media for marketing to new customers and upselling current customers to inform the client’s new business research.

Early Findings

What ISPs Can See About Customers & What They Do With That Information

  • According to, ISPs gather the following information from each user (based solely on the active IP address): websites visited, pages visited most frequently, logging-in and out habits, and time spent on web pages. For users who share more-personal information online, the ISP can identify: current locations (if services are engaged), personal relationships, phone numbers, email, and social media data.
  • Digital providers collect this data (and more) and create user profiles that generally match each of the varying types of users identified through the data analysis. Then, they partner with marketing companies and corporate advertisers push specific marketing collateral aimed at the target demographic (for each of them) – based on what is most likely to entice those specific people to buy more / do more / use more of the product/service. This goes for current customers (for upselling), as well as being used to target new customers.


  • The Center for Digital Democracy noted in 2016 that three of the biggest ISPs, AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, are well equipped (through omni-channel data collection) to identify, profile, and target their customers. Other research details each provider’s take on data and digital media. To better understand how and why these ISP providers use digital media, first one must understand the power these companies have to collect enormous amount of data.


  • AT&T uses a “cross-screen system” (omni-channel) to collect data from users; they have created a “consumer insights platform” that “uses Big Data techniques to advance At&T’s targeted-marketing objectives.”
  • Digiday accessed AT&T’s pitch deck from 2018 which highlights the “AT&T digital video advantage,” and which shows their buyer-completion rate of “between 95 and 97 percent.” They also show $0 lost to ad fraud. The pitch deck discusses how the ISP provider has combined TV with OTT advertising (“including programmatic” at a scale grander than all others within the ISP and digital streaming world.
  • The company also touts how their digital advertising options and data are safer than Google and Facebook, and is looking to fill the void for a “quality environment” in which advertisers can spread their marketing collateral. Notably, AT&T “is pitching a programmatic direct private marketplace across the company’s OTT play” through its DirecTV and DirecTV Now – through which network-level targeting can be applied.
  • Through this targeted marketing (based on data collection, analysis, and profiling), AT&T “offers real-time ad targeting of individuals who view streaming video and other online content,” and can “serve ads to the same target audience on TV and digital devices across tens of billions of impressions.” Additionally, the company owns a high-tech media lab that effectively shows marketers how to “efficiently reach their targets across any platform.” The lab offers data visualization tools to help marketers achieve their goals (and which the company clearly uses to achieve theirs, as well).


  • Comcast employs “one of the largest cloud and Big Data computing systems in the world [which] leverages over 50,000 algorithms and analyzes billions of data points in real time,” and they utilize this information in their own marketing, as well as selling profile information (and tips on how to use it effectively) to outside marketers. Their system is “capable of processing billions of events per day” and enables them to identify immediately actionable insights and apply them toward more efficient advertising via digital channels.
  • Comcast uses an “identity strategy,” which utilizes extensive Big Data details and which includes “event processing, analytics, storing our information in the cloud, and various forms of digital testing and optimization.” Additionally, Comcast’s AAI (Applied Artificial Intelligence) Group is developing a wide range of digital marketing and usage tools that use machine learning; one project involves creating virtual assistants for customer interactions, while another employs blockchain technologies (“BlockGraph”) “to help develop more detailed digital dossiers on consumers so they can be targeted for advertising and other services.”
  • Comcast also has its own “advertising, data management and digital rights management technology company,” FreeWheel, which helps marketing and video/digital media companies deploy “unified ad management” techniques via their platform, as well as providing them with technology services that allows them to “unify audiences across desktop, mobile, OTT (so-called Over-the-Top streaming video), and [cable TV] set-top boxes [to] profitably monetize their content.”
  • Comcast has significantly expanded their digital data collection and related advertising efforts in the last few years through various acquisitions and partnerships. Their acquisition, Strata, now partners with Choozle to collect data that “will allow thousands of advertising agencies to access detailed consumer data to execute digital advertising campaigns as conveniently as they would buy local TV advertising.”
  • The ISP provider’s NBCUniversal division has increased the use of data-driven techniques, as well, through its own platform, Audience Studio, which directly identifies and targets consumers “on digital, linear, mobile, and out-of-home viewing; the data and analytics are employed by the company, its subsidiaries, and companies to which it sells data so they can offer “precision targeting [of consumers] at unequaled scale.”


  • Verizon acquired Millennial Media, which gave them “access to customer data gathered by more than 60,000 apps, including location, social, interest, and contextual information.” This purchase gave the ISP-giant access to “some 175 million unique users in the United States alone.”
  • Oath is the division within Verizon that collects consumer data, differentiates it, and utilizes it for the strongest digital (and other) marketing presence. Oath incorporates “50 media and technology brands that engage more than a billion people around the world, the Oath portfolio includes HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, AOL, Tumblr, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Mail” and other properties.” Their real-time data collection tool is called “One” and their digital video ad company is called “BrightRoll;” Verizon has heavily invested in this tool to create the “most advanced and open advertising technology” system that “spans across mobile, video, search, native and programmatic ads.”
  • Through their technologies, Verizon utilizes (and offers to partners and marketing companies) “people-based marketing” tactics and tools – targeted specifically to consumers’ “location, passions and interest from social (media), purchase intent from search and advertising engagement, cross device identity from users mapped across devices, favorite content from web, app and Smart TV data, on and offline purchases and recent store visits from mobile geolocation data.”
  • One of Verizon’s most popular digital marketing strategies is the repetitive use of promotions and specific gimmicks, like the “Can you hear me now?” set of ads. Prior to its retirement (and the spokesperson’s move to Sprint), this campaign ran “for a decade with various creatives added to introduce many different services.”
  • In October 2019, Verizon announced a pivot in their techniques from using their data to support their marketing efforts toward “a host of new products and programming changes designed to lay the foundation of something they hope can deliver one-third of their revenue in the next five years.” Their efforts are wide-ranging, and include a new shoppable video player and site-native buy buttons with “hot spot technologies.” They are focusing greater efforts on driving affiliate revenue, branded content production and dissemination, and highly-targeted offerings to consumers across all platforms.

Proprietary Database Search

  • In addition to this public search, we scanned our proprietary research database of over 1 million sources and found one report which may be helpful: “Internet Service Providers in the US” - published 11/15/2019 ($1090).

Summary of Findings

  • Initial research turned up information and insights into how much data ISPs collect from their customer base (and guests), and how they utilize that information for direct marketing (via digital and other channels), as well as how they provide that data to other marketers for more-efficient marketing.
  • Initial research identified some of the data collection and subsequent digital marketing techniques of three major US ISP providers – AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon. These entities collect data on current users in order to provide the most targeted advertising, as well as using customer-centric profile data to target – and entice – new customers to their platforms.
  • Time did not allow for research conducted into usage and user statistics for streaming TV and audio services.

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