The Digital Signage Insider

DOOH Mysteries: How Much Do Outdoor LED Billboards Really Cost?

Published on: 2012-06-28

Update 2015:

I can definitively say I know how much at least a few LED billboards really cost. One of our partners is clearing out a large amount of inventory, and has asked us to publish their pricing. So while this pricing isn't universal, it does demonstrate what you can get a large format, made-in-the-USA LCD display for:

Display Size Pixel Pitch Price Notes
2x8' 16mm $4,400 per face + parts & shipping Overstock price, while supplies last, limit one order per customer
4x8' 16mm $7,800 per face + parts & shipping Overstock price, while supplies last, limit one order per customer
40x90" 10.66mm $8,600 per face + parts & shipping Year-end price while supplies last, limit one order per customer
14x48' 16mm $154,000 per face + parts & shipping Introductory price while supplies last, limit one order per customer

Apparently a lot of other sign and billboard sizes are also available and in stock.

And of course as always you can use our LED billboard pricing calculator (which is going to look high compared to this) to figure out your needs, and ask us to have our suppliers formally quote it (which will bring the prices back down).

Anybody interested in purchasing one of the signs above should contact sales@wirespring.com for details.

 

I find it more than a little ironic that over the years, the digital signage and DOOH industries have spent countless hours and huge sums of money talking about the best way to advertise, the best way to inform and the best way to get noticed, yet we almost never talk about these things in one of the best possible contexts -- where we have hard data about what works and 50+ years of compiled data on best practices. I'm talking, of course, about the great outdoors. In that environment, large-format displays like LED billboards inherit the mantel of traditional out-of-home advertising, and routinely generate more money per screen than some whole networks of indoor digital signs ever will. While I know a lot of folks think those big, roadside displays have nothing at all to do with their business, I think many could benefit from learning a bit about the business models and content practices that make them tick.

The benefits of out-of-home messaging on LED billboards

Obviously, the main benefit of outdoor advertising is the sheer size of the potential audience. The large LED billboard on the stretch of I-95 near my home probably catches the attention of several hundred thousand people each day. The much smaller display near our city hall probably sees several thousand. In contrast, aside from our local supermarket, most of the stores in my town would be lucky to see 50 patrons a day, making them poor venues for advertising upcoming events and important notices.

Additionally, there are a wealth of resources to help the display's manager create impactful messages. While outdoor displays may have large audiences, they are typically fleeting. Thus, brevity is paramount (meaning I'd be terrible at it), and things like screen contrast and color choice are critical. A lot of our content best practices for digital signage actually originated from best practices for billboard advertising, and were tweaked as we learned what special tricks digital displays could do.

Finally, if you're in the advertising biz and not just trying to show public service messages, the typical business model for outdoor LED billboards reinforces our survey finding that advertisers really like reach-based pricing models, such as CPM. While I'm sure there are some digital billboards out there that aren't profitable, many, many are. In fact, I've heard from a number of billboard owners who replaced some static displays with digital screens and saw revenues multiply. In one memorable case, the owner was charging around $2,000/month for a static billboard, but was able to charge that same $2,000/month seven times to the seven advertisers whose content rotated on the screen. I don't know if that's a typical result, but where the indoor digital signage market seems to be comprised of a few successes mired in a sea of failures, in the digital billboard market, it seems to be quite the opposite. Granted, the digital billboard market is also home to some deep-pocketed network owners, but I still think the point is a fair one.

If digital billboards are so great, why isn't everybody installing one?

If you were to judge the popularity of various types of digital signage by the number of comments my blog articles attract, then LED billboards would far and away be #1. An article on Electronic Billboard Pros, Cons and Safety Information that I wrote back in 2004 has attracted an astonishing 145 comments over the past 8 years. Admittedly, most of them are from far-east manufacturers of the displays looking for some cheap publicity, but still...

And yet, for all that, there are probably only a few thousand large-format LED displays installed across the US right now. Why? Two reasons:

1. The displays are expensive -- and most folks in our industry are cheapskates.
2. Installation requires wading through bureaucracy -- municipalities can set their own rules about what outdoor displays can do, and obtaining the necessary permits can take months.

Behold, the LED Billboard Cost Estimator

All of this brings us to the big question: how much do LED billboards actually cost? Until recently, that wasn't a question that I could answer. In fact, I didn't know a whole lot about these screens until I started researching them a few months ago, and I was astonished by the number of variables that affect both the price and the amount of time it takes to install a display. So, armed with information from a number of seasoned vendors and users, we put together an easy-to-use tool that can help guesstimate what it would cost to install LED billboards of various sizes into different environments:



If you equip yourself with a better understanding of the various cost components, and you team up with a vendor who's capable of actually delivering all of those components (or at least helping you get them all together), a large format LED display project doesn't have to be nearly as horrible as it used to be. And that's a good thing, because there's still a lot of low-hanging fruit in the LED billboard market for crafty VARs to grab.



Comments   

0 harry 2012-07-10 06:50
Hi Bill, The analysis is really helpful. Outdoor LED video billboard is on the way to be prosperous, and is applied more and more extensively. And the price has fallen down from sky years ago. It is an affordable signage. BTW, your estimating tool is really effective, and reflecting the price in US market, though it is a little high than the real one. We are Hangel Technology from China, LED display supplier. If anything we can help, it is welcome. Harry Hangel Technology Co., Ltd.
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0 Bill Gerba 2012-07-30 16:07
Hi Harry, Thanks for the feedback. As noted, we compiled the pricing from a couple of different vendors, and then wrote some math to approximate some variables like shipping and installation. I'm sure it's not anywhere near close to 100% accurate, but our goal here was to highlight where the various cost centers are more than anything else.
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0 Dennis @ LED Signs 2012-11-29 17:54
That's a pretty neat calculator you made up. Really sheds some light on what it takes to put up an LED billboard.
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-1 Allen 2012-12-19 20:02
pretty nice calculator, so does hold good for all costing of led signs and [[http://www.ledsignsupply.com/|outdoor led signs]] or led billboards???
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+3 Atlanta Promoter 2013-08-03 04:45
I wanted to get into this business... I have found that Outdoor Billboards cost an investment of about $150,000 to $200,000 for a single face billboard, the potential net profit can be between $125,000 and $360,000 per year! With ads costing your clients $1200 per week for each ad. If you have the capital... go for it
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0 Joseph Weir 2014-01-30 06:25
Great calculator. It will really help advertisers to calculate the cost of [[http://led-display-signs.com/|led message board]].
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0 John 2014-12-03 08:22
Very Nice calculator. It will really really help advertisers to calculate the cost of [[http://led-card-china.com/|led card]] for LED Display
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+1 Robert 2015-10-10 23:40
I'm not in the advertising industry, I was just curious about the design and the cost of the displays. I tried the estimator and found that at the default setting of 15 cents per kilowatt hour it shows A cost for electricity of about 16000 a month.

Your article mentions someone was able to charge 2000/customer with 7 ads in rotation. It seems to me that would be 14000/month, which wouldn't pay for electricity.

Admittedly, 15c/kwh is high in my city. With a more realistic price you might profit if electricity was the only expense.

But there is the display cost which is huge and would need to be recouped in xx years. Maintenance costs which are variable, rent or mortgage for the location, and, etc.

I don't doubt this is profitable since people are installing them, I'm just guessing something was omitted for brevity.
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+1 Bill 2015-10-12 16:36
Hi Robert,

Great question. First, our estimator is just that -- an estimator, meant to provide you with a range of pricing from worst- to best-case.

That said, though since this article was written (and I should update our estimator numbers to reflect this), LED panel costs have gone down quite a bit, probably 25%, energy utilization has dropped 20% easily, and the price per ad has gone up -- especially in urban locations that are typically best-suited for LED billboard applications. In my area of South Florida it's reasonable to expect to pay $3,000-$4,000/month to be in a flight of 8-10 ads, which as you imagine changes the math pretty dramatically. In very dense locations, your CAPEX would be nearly the same, but your income could be much, much greater.

So, like everything else, the devil is in the details :)
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+1 Elizabeth Farha 2015-10-16 17:50
New digital billboard operator looking to for new revenue, enable your digital boards for online and digital advertising buyers. Join other independent operators who are already leveraging this new sales tool. http://fliphound.com/Home/owner
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0 Bill 2015-10-20 01:46
Thanks, Elizabeth. I hadn't come across this service before, but it does look interesting. I'm curious about how you actually *reach* potential buyers, though. I know there are plenty of media buying platforms out there that do a great job online, in print and on TV. For DOOH media it has been a rough slog, though, and many potential aggregators have gone out of business, mostly due to lack of buy-side support.
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0 Elizabeth Farha 2015-10-28 20:15
Thanks for the feedback, Bill. You're right, there are many media outlets, but digital billboards provide advertisers real-time flexibility and the ability to change messages on the go while delivering messages to audiences at speeds faster than both broadcast, TV and print media. Here is another helpful link from our website that touches base on the many benefits of outdoor advertising: http://www.fliphound.com/why-outdoor
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0 Whiteness 2016-01-11 07:26
its a pretty neat calculator.
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0 delila 2016-02-27 00:24
the best is to call and inquire about the prices because you can negotiate many times
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