CBS’ foray into out-of-home video networks began as an affair, via content deals with SignStorey and other players including Gas Station TV, Healium’s doctor’s office network, Ripple’s network in specialty retail locations and OnSpot Digital’s high-definition screens in Simon Malls. It became a marriage when CBS saw that the medium could be much more than just a promotional channel for its content—from CBS News to Simon & Schuster.Our take:
By last September, CBS had bought SignStorey, whose distribution partners include some of the largest grocery chains. Schweitzer says it was a natural extension for the company. SignStorey’s president and CEO, Virginia Cargill, moved over to become president of the new CBS Outernet unit.
CBS isn’t the only TV network smitten with the space. ABC and NBC have struck content and sales deals with other place-based nets, from gyms and sports arenas to universities. NBC named its portfolio of content-driven network deals NBC Everywhere.
“This is the next frontier of growth for TV networks,” says Patrick Quinn, PQ Media’s CEO.
“They are looking to create one-stop buying for buyers in an attempt to create a four-screen force.”
But unlike other TV networks, CBS is taking its commitment further. Owning networks—or, at the very least, signing exclusive sales agreements with networks—allows CBS to control not only content but all inventory, a plus for advertisers.
“CBS is more serious about the space than their competition—they aren’t just looking to rep space,” says Daniel Wilkins, president of Atlanta-based out-of-home agency Wilkins Media, which in April launched a new division, n2, to handle digital out-of-home buys.
“I like skin in the game,” says Jack Sullivan, senior vp, out-of-home at Starcom. “I know when I’m talking with CBS Outernet, I’m dealing with the decision maker.”
CBS is aggressively growing its network -- first with 4,000 screens in GameStop locations, then with another 4,000 screens in auto dealerships (in partnership with AutoNet TV), and, of course, via their content and ad sales arrangement with LifeClinic, whose displays are in over 19,000 pharmacies and wellness centers. And if Sullivan's words are any indication, they don't plan to stop growing soon. Interestingly, while many feel that digital signage is a real estate game, WireSpring's own observations suggest that the quality of the venue is more important than the quantity. However, this may be because the bulk of our customers who run ad-funded networks continue to derive significant revenues from local advertisers, whereas CBS probably can't make much money that way (costs would be too high).