CBS Taps Some Fourth Screens To Help Its First Screen (Or Why Digital Out-of-Home May Help Save Digital In-The-Home)

A lot has been written about the supposed synergies across the "three" video screens: TV, online-connected PCs and mobile, hand-held devices. This week, I'd like to talk about an interesting connection with a fourth: digital, out-of-home screens. Actually, in this case, I'm really talking about a multitude of screens: screens on airplanes, screens in supermarkets, and even screens on gas station pumps. What do they all have in common? Well, they're all screen-based affiliates of CBS Outernet, the digital out-of-home division of CBS Corp. that reaches millions of out-of-home viewers each month. What else do they have in common? They're all teaming up to help with a potentially disruptive transition of another screen-based medium: television.

In what arguably is the first cross-platform public service advertising campaign of its kind, CBS Outernet this month will begin running spots across its screens to help educate viewers on the transition to digital broadcast TV spectrum on Feb. 17. On that date, American TV viewers who have relied on over-the-air broadcast signals will either need to get a special digital converter box, or will have to hook up to another form of digital reception like cable or satellite TV. If they don't, they'll be watching some snowy screens where their favorite channels used to be, including CBS' network and TV stations.

The campaign is interesting because the television industry has already made ample investments to promote the digital broadcast transition via its own medium. More than $1 billion worth of donated TV advertising time has already run as part of the effort, which is being coordinated by the National Association of Broadcasters. But the use of out-of-home video is a smart move, because many of the households that are likely to be most affected -- terrestrial broadcast-only homes -- also represent some of the lightest viewers of television. That means they need to be reached in places and in ways that the nearly ubiquitous reach of national TV advertising apparently cannot.

Enter CBS Outernet, which will run a rotation of 15- and 30-second PSAs -- produced by CBS, CNET and the NAB -- on a lineup of out-of-home video networks including: American Airlines, AutoNet TV, the CBS Outernet Grocery Network, Gas Station TV, and the Healium Network. Collectively, those outlets are projected to deliver close to 70 million out-of-home viewers each month.

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