Big 3 TV networks buy in to digital signage

Published on: 2015-02-05

As Advertising Age comments:

The big broadcast TV networks have a natural expertise in helping marketers reach potential customers as they sit in their living rooms, but now they want to follow those consumers out the door. In recent months, the three oldest -- Walt Disney's ABC, General Electric's NBC Universal and CBS Corp.'s flagship operation -- have set up ventures to place ads on screens that consumers might watch as they fill up at the gas station, hunt for produce in the supermarket or shop at the mall.

"It certainly is getting competitive in a hurry," said Ed Pearson, senior VP, ABC New Media Sales. The push comes as TV networks have been crimped by ratings erosion and technology that allows consumers to skip ads or watch TV through digital media. "How do the networks reach the consumers when they are on the move?" asked Virginia Cargill, president of CBS Outernet.

The TV outlets want to use the screens to promote their shows, of course, but also employ them to wrangle more advertising from marketers who are placing more emphasis on getting promotional messages in front of consumers when they aren't in front of the TV. And they face competition from players that are already established, including PRN, a Thomson-owned unit that works extensively with Wal-Mart Stores.

Our take:

None of this should come as any surprise to digital signage industry regulars.  PRN has been in business selling ad time on digital screens in retail  stores for a decade now, and the networks have all been providing content, ad sales support, or both to various digital out-of-home networks for years.  What's noteworthy in this case is that a) all of the networks are pretty much on-board with the concept, value and merits of advertising (whether products, services or their upcoming TV shows) on the digital signs, and b) that they're starting to talk about it in similar terms to their own over-the-air broadcasts.  That's hugely important, since many see the networks as the gateway to the media buyers and planners that control a huge percentage of the advertising budgets of large and small companies alike.

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