The increase was largely due to the purchase of AT&T Wireless by the SBC/BellSouth joint venture Cingular Wireless, said Nielsen//NetRatings Internet Analyst Corey Jeffery. While Cingular's $41 billion purchase of AT&T Wireless occurred in October, SBC Communications did not fully integrate AT&T Wireless with Cingular until last month.
The vast majority--97 percent, or 3.34 billion--of SBC's December impressions came from its Cingular Wireless division. The next largest contributor was SBC's Internet Services Division, with 57 million impressions, followed by SBC Telecom, with 4.5 million, and the Pacific Bell Telephone Company, with 1 million.
Web portal MSN hosted more than half--1.98 billion--of SBC's December ad impressions. It is unclear how much of this was free advertising attributable to AT&T Wireless' DSL package deal with MSN. Yahoo!, which also has a DSL package deal with SBC, hosted 887 million impressions. CNN.com, America Online, and ESPN.com rounded out the top five with 101 million, 46 million, and 36 million hosted impressions, respectively.
Telco giant SBC now has a 32 percent Internet ad market share, followed by Verizon and Internet telephony company Vonage, each with 10 percent. SBC's joint venture partner in Cingular Wireless, BellSouth, has a 6 percent share.
Prior to its acquisition by Cingular, AT&T Wireless consistently finished among top 10 online advertisers, according to AdRelevance. In October, the company was the top advertiser, delivering 2.03 billion ad impressions; it again finished in the top ten in November, delivering 1.78 billion impressions.
"Wireless companies have long been the heaviest online spenders," said JupiterResearch Analyst Niki Scevak, who said it was no surprise that a wireless company should be the largest advertiser.
SBC declined to comment for this story.
SBC's December total is nearly twice as much as Dell Computer Corporation, the second place advertiser with 1.92 billion impressions. Online DVD rental service Netflix was third on 1.56 billion impressions, followed by LowerMyBills.com with 1.55 billion impressions and InterActiveCorp, with 1.46 billion impressions.