AT&T inks Mark Wahlberg to plug entertainment offerings

Mark Wahlberg. (Eva Rinaldi/Flickr)

AT&T has hired Mark Wahlberg to plug its entertainment offerings in an exclusive deal reportedly worth more than $10 million.

Wahlberg and the carrier will begin production this week on an ad campaign slated to launch in April focusing on AT&T’s entertainment offerings across screens. And the ads apparently will tout AT&T’s zero-rated data model, which allows wireless customers who are also DirecTV subscribers to view content without incurring data charges.

“Only AT&T gives you your live channels and DVR on your devices, data-free,” said Brad Bentley, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of AT&T Entertainment Group, in a press release. “And there’s no one more authentic to show how AT&T does entertainment your way than Mark Wahlberg—a no-nonsense entertainer himself.”

 AT&T didn’t disclose terms of the agreement, but Page Six described it as “a massive eight-figure deal” north of $10 million. As Page Six noted, Wahlberg is just the latest high-profile celebrity to agree to promote the offerings of a major U.S. wireless carrier: Jamie Foxx last year appeared in commercials for Verizon, Ariana Grande has touted T-Mobile and Taylor Swift has inked a multiyear deal with AT&T.

Wahlberg will appear in a series of TV and digital ads, and will reportedly create original content for AT&T.

Interestingly, AT&T’s announcement comes as a battle over zero-rated content is heating up between the nation’s two largest wireless network operators. AT&T began offering zero-rated video last year to wireless customers who also subscribe to DirecTV, and Verizon earlier this week said wireless customers who subscribe to its internet and TV services can watch both live and recorded shows without incurring data charges by using the carrier’s Fios Mobile App.

The zero-rated data model has come under fire from critics who claim it violates net neutrality principles because it enables carriers to favor some content providers over others, and—in the cases of Verizon and T-Mobile—allows them to push their own content to users. Indeed, the FCC has questioned both of those carriers over their policies for zero-rated data offerings on net neutrality grounds.

The FCC has reversed itself under Ajit Pai, however, who succeeded Tom Wheeler as chairman in January as Donald Trump took office. That reversal paves the way for carriers to continue to deploy zero-rated data services as the worlds of wireless and digital media converge.