For my recent post about digital signage "lingo", I performed a very brief and rather unscientific analysis of the data from our survey on how much digital signage should cost. Today, I want to start a more in-depth review of those results. There is a LOT of data to go through, and I suspect we'll be poking at these results for at least another few posts, eventually leading to the 2009 edition of our annual digital signage cost estimate. So let's start with a straightforward look at what people think the different components of a digital signage network should cost. As a warning, this post has a lot of graphs and charts, so if you're viewing this in your email or RSS reader and can't see the pretty pictures, you might want to visit /blog to see them in all their glory.

First, the caveats

Did I say a straightforward look at the data? Surely there's no such thing! For example, while we did get a total of 223 responses to our survey (our best showing yet), some people didn't answer all the questions. Also, we're segmenting the responses by network size (splitting "small" networks from "large" ones at the 100-screen mark to stay true to arguments in previous articles). Some people will disagree with that inflection point. And finally, the data is obviously highly skewed toward existing readers of this blog and there is no control set to compare against.

With that said, I'd like to present the following graphs, which tabulate the results from people who answered our "what should this part cost?" questions. We'll focus on the hardware and installation components today, and take a look at the software and support components next week. To begin with, we divided the resulting data into four piles (or buckets, if you insist on using ridiculous business jargon): one for people who have never done a digital signage project before, one for people who have only done small projects (1-99 screens), one for people who have only done large projects (100 screens or more), and one for people who have done all sorts of projects, large and small. Even accounting for the caveats listed above, I think you'll agree that the findings are pretty illuminating.

What do people expect to pay for a 40" LCD screen?

LCD monitors are the components of a digital signage network that people have the most experience with, since they're used in many applications besides digital signage. From corporate conference rooms to trade show displays to break room TVs, the widespread adoption of LCD displays suggests that people ought to provide the most similar responses for this item, regardless of their individual experiences. However, those reporting no digital signage project experience clearly indicate that they would expect to pay less for a commercial screen than those who have digital signage project experience (whether small projects only, large projects only, or mixed). This may suggest that those unfamiliar with digital signage are accustomed to purchasing consumer grade screens, and aren't aware of the price premium for commercial screens. Or perhaps they simply haven't priced a commercial digital signage LCD screen recently.

Approximately the same percentage of people expect to pay $1,200 or more per screen regardless of project size (35% of small project only respondents versus 36-38% for large and mixed project respondents). However, fully 1/3 of small project managers feel that $1,000 - $1,200 is the sweet spot right now, whereas those with any larger project experience seem to think they can get a better deal on average. The latter finding makes sense, since that group would be more likely to commit to volume purchases.

What do people expect to pay for media player hardware?

I was really surprised to see how much consistency there was on the media player pricing responses. I was also quite surprised to see how little people expect to pay for these devices. Whereas our 2008 pricing estimates put the average price of a media player at around $1,100, our respondents on average said they expect to pay only about $890. If that data holds up, it would represent a pretty dramatic drop of 19% from last year. Of course, a few different things could be happening here. First of all, the "no project experience" group is skewing the data a bit. Their estimates were the lowest on average (though not by much). Additionally, some people might have been using the survey results to voice what they'd like to pay, and not necessarily what they would actually expect to pay if they were buying these components today. Or, the price of media players could simply have dropped a lot over the past year. That's certainly not out of the question given today's economy and the willingness of many companies to make deals.

What do people expect to pay for a tilting wall mount?

Like LCD screens, tilting wall mounts are fairly common outside of the digital signage world. However, there is a huge discrepancy in pricing these items between those people who have some digital signage experience and those who don't. Given that those who haven't worked on digital signage projects significantly discounted the price of mounts, the most likely culprit is that this group has either not purchased many (or any) mounts before. Or if they have bought them, they were likely to just head over to Walmart to get the inexpensive consumer ones designed for mounting HDTVs. Those who have done work with digital signage in the past uniformly indicated that the "sweet spot" for mounts right now is the $100 - $200 price range.

What do people expect to pay for screen and media player installation?

The last item we'll discuss today is screen and media player installation. If you believe the data we collected, most people seem to think it doesn't cost a whole lot to install a screen. I wasn't completely surprised to see that those respondents with no digital signage experience would price the expected cost of installation so low -- the average was around $610, with the vast majority indicating "less than $500". If these folks have experience installing big screens, it might be of the do-it-yourself variety, or even a total guess. What was really surprising, though, is how much people with experience said they expected to pay. Our 2008 pricing estimate put the expected cost of a 40" screen and media player installation at around $1100, which was a composite figure that included two laborers (since a 40" screen is heavy enough to require a two-man lift), and a combination of union and non-union cost profiles. However, either we were really off the mark, or prices have fallen significantly, or else this data is totally inaccurate... because the average figure cited by experienced respondents was only $840, which would be nearly a 24% discount over last year's estimates. Granted, the labor market is quite flexible right now, and again thanks to the economy I could certainly see more people making deals just to keep their payrolls current. But it was still quite a surprise to see such uniformity in the data, and such a low resulting average price for digital signage installation costs.

That's all for now, I'm afraid. Those very mediocre-looking graphs took far too long to make, and while I was hoping to continue this article with discussions of the remaining items (software and tech support), that will have to wait until next week. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a question:

What do you think of the results above? Do they fit with your expectations? Leave a comment and let me know.


+1 # Jack Boyczuk 2009-09-18 13:47
With the exception of the display, I'm surprised how close each of the "project experience" groups are in price. Data point you may be interested in: We polled some of our resellers recently so we could develop turnkey brochures for them that includes a 40" display, media player, software, wall mount, installation & 1-yr phone support. We have two different apps that came in with an end user price of $3685 & $5895 (provides ~35% gpm for the reseller). The install number used was $680 for the cost of their technican and a sale price of $1500.
+1 # Bill Gerba 2009-09-18 13:56
Hi Jack, Interesting data there. So in general your rellers only use one tech to hang a 40" screen? Is that a recent development (perhaps related to the screens weighing less than in past years)? Because going from two to one installer would certainly be a major factor in reducing installation costs.
0 # Charlie Hawkins 2009-09-21 21:54
Bill: Interesting article - I'm curious about why you specified "just the hardware" when addressing the media player? Was that because, based on the complexity of the application the range of necessary software was too great to scale for the intent of this article? Regarding the installation numbers, another aspect could involve migration of Home Theater installers to the Pro AV arena to augment flagging project sales. They're used to working with tighter margins and may well have brought that belt-tightening philosophy with them into this arena.
0 # Bill Gerba 2009-09-22 02:12
Hi Charlie, In the survey I split the media player out into hardware and software because while some companies link the two items together, many will let you purchase your own hardware if you wish. We'll be covering the different software components in the 9/23 article. Regarding your observation on installers, I think that's quite insightful and certainly offers one potential explanation for the price disparity. If demand goes down and supply goes up, price goes down. Basic economics at works, so I'd like to think that your reason is the correct one (I like it when theory matches practice :) Thanks! Bill
+1 # Ling 2009-09-28 19:33
Hi Bill, We can provide the hardwares you mentioned above with very competitive price for good quality which will lower the total cost of the project significantly. If you are interested in collaborating on projects, I can provide you more detailed information. (, 510-502-9388) Ling
0 # ling 2009-09-28 23:38
The email was typed wrong, it should be thanks.

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