Clear Channel Outdoor Expands Digital Net To Top Markets

Clear Channel Outdoor is set to introduce digital billboards to Philadelphia and the Chicago metro area, according to CEO Paul Meyer, who said the new HD displays would be up and running by the end of August.

The company will also double the size of its digital network in Los Angeles, bringing it to a total of 16 displays. Overall, Clear Channel now operates 16 digital signage networks in 14 DMAs, having added 76 new displays in 2007 alone.

Meyer said the new displays are a hot commodity with advertisers, with 40% of the inventory for the second Los Angeles network already pre-sold. Ad messages are displayed for 8 seconds in rotation. For the most part, the company hasn't yet begun selling ads according to different dayparts, with heavy commuting periods fetching higher prices. But he said the capability remains, and may be exploited in the future.

Clear Channel doesn't expect any objections to the displays from local city governments, which in other venues have temporarily blocked the installation or operation of digital displays by Clear Channel and other outdoor advertising companies.



"All of our markets are instructed that they're to work very closely with the local municipal authorities to make sure there's a high level of comfort with these deployments," Meyer said. One key to winning over local city governments is putting the billboards at their disposal for emergency messaging. For example, Meyer said digital billboards helped local authorities in Minneapolis divert traffic and post news updates after the catastrophic collapse of the I-35W bridge across the Mississippi River during rush hour earlier this month. He added that all the company's digital billboards are also made available for Amber Alerts publicizing missing children and emergency announcements from police and fire departments.

Last year, Clear Channel Outdoor encountered stiff resistance from the town of Minnetonka, a suburb of Minneapolis, when it converted two regular billboards on I-394 and I-494 to digital displays--allegedly without permission from the town. The legal dispute was settled in July, with an agreement to allow the digital displays in return for dismantling a number of regular billboards in the town itself.

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