Archive for June 2006

Big screens prices keep dropping

June 29, 2006

I remember less than 2.5 years ago looking at putting a string of 50 inch displays into a public area, but it was waaaay too stinkin’ expensive to make work in our budgets.

Now it looks like its possible to buy consumer grade plasmas for $2,500 USD … at a Best Buy!

Reports Insight Media:

The most significant impact on the pricing of 50- to 54-inch PDP-TVs for May came from the consumer electronics (CE) retail channel, which in our survey consists of BergerBros, Best Buy, Circuit City, Conns, ElectronicExpress, Electronics Expo, HHGregg, Outpost (Frys) and B&H PhotoVideo. The CE retail channel is one of four channel groups tracked in Insight Media’s HDTV Retailer newsletter each month.

In this channel, average advertised pricing fell by over $250 (7%), and the number of brands and models were numerous enough to be significant. As would be expected, value brand Maxent delivers the least expensive PDP-TV at 50 inches – a $2,465 SKU found at Best Buy. However, third-tier Maxent is not the only brand with a sub-$3K model: LG Electonics’ 50PX1D is advertised for $2.7K, also at Best Buy. As first- and second-tier 50-inch PDP-TVs being sold at major retailers begin to dip below $3K, it is only a matter of time before the majority of 50-inch PDP-TVs are being sold below the $3K mark.

A lot of digital sign networks I’ve seen get a lot of stuff right, but miss the mark because the screens are too small … usually because larger screens were cost-prohibitive. These $2,500 units are not ideal for such networks, but with prices dropping like this, the professional grade monitors that are better designed for retail and ad networks are also going to keep coming down in price.

Anytime Anywhere measurement

June 27, 2006

Read this in Media in Canada today:

Nielsen Media Research is developing and deploying technology to measure all of the new ways consumers watch TV today, including over the Internet, out-of-home viewing, and via personal mobile devices such as cellphones and iPods. The A2/M2 (Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement) initiative announced last week by New York-based NMR will ultimately provide ratings for TV regardless of the platform on which it is viewed.

Mike Leahy, president of Nielsen Media Research Canada, says that while most of the technology testing will take place south of the border, once the measurement components are ready to go, the Canadian industry will have it either through NMR or as part of the highly anticipated BBM Nielsen Media Research joint venture company, which is expected to be operational in time for the 2007 television season.

“They want to, as they say, follow the video,” he says, of the new effort. “They want to make sure we can capture anybody, anywhere – and credit the exposure whatever that exposure is – to commercial content, to programming – and where that exposure occurs.”

Some key components of the A2/M2 initiative include the development of new meters to measure video viewed on portable media devices, adding OOH measurement to people meter samples, and creating new research for measuring viewer engagement in TV programming.

To accelerate the process of bringing new systems to market, Nielsen has created ongoing test panels of households recruited and managed in the same way as its existing samples. These will include participants leaving Nielsen’s household panel at the conclusion of their maximum two-year tenure.

In the area of integrating TV and Internet measurement, NMR and Nielsen/Net Ratings are working together to introduce new services, with the latter setting up a system for tracking and reporting digital audio and video delivered via the Internet and the former adding Internet television measurement to its people meter samples next year. This will create a single panel to measure the relationship among TV viewing, website usage and streaming video consumption. This summer NMR will also install and test software meters on PCs and laptops of its people meter panelists leaving its household panel and will fully deploy these meters to the full sample during the 2007/08 broadcast season.

As a precursor to introducing the single-sample Internet/TV panel, fused data combining the viewing results from matching respondents in the TV and Internet panels will be available beginning this summer. (In 2008, the firm will also be introducing a variation of its Active/Passive meter – now in field testing – that is placed next to the TV to collect TV on/off and program information.)

When it comes to out-of-home viewing, a new measurement test, involving two different personal meters designed to capture audio signatures, will begin this fall. One device places the technology in cellphones and the other resembles an MP3 player.

And to track portable media devices, the company is creating device-neutral Solo Meters that can be used with any portable media system. For platforms using a wireless, Bluetooth connection, a small wireless meter is in development, while wired systems will be measured through a small in-line meter inserted between the device and its earphones.

Meanwhile, a pilot program to help lay the groundwork for engagement metrics is in the works. Metered households will be participating in telephone surveys designed to measure commercial recall and qualitative engagement factors for the programs they watch. The results of the survey will be published this fall, at which time NMR will decide the next steps, including additional research or the launch of a specific engagement product.

What’s missing here, of course, is any reference to the massive audiences that will develop over time with advertising-based and retail media networks. Legitimized audience measurement has been a major, major growing pain for most of the start-up companies in this space, and if standards are developed and accepted, that can only help.

The peril, of course, is that some of the networks out there will show numbers that might actually hurt their selling efforts.

The move by Nielsen is interesting because I suspect it reflects that company’s acknowledgement that the whole dynamic has shifted, and basing your business primarily around people watching TV in their homes overlooks much of what’s happening in media these days.

Presumably, they’d lump in digital signage networks as part of their Anywhere measurement. The out of home people, like the the Canadian Outdoor Measurement Bureau, are already getting active in this industry.

Bonjour Quebec

June 20, 2006

I am back in Montreal, albeit briefly. It is one of those up and back trips in which all you see of the city is from office and taxicab windows.

I am sitting in the departure lounge looking at the Astral Media screens that have been installed here and in many of the lounges. I mentioned a long time ago they got it right in terms of height and angle, but had some pretty shaky ideas about the screen, which appeared entirely unprotected.

When I saw first saw this, the screens were not on. Now that they’re running, it’s nothing to get much excited about – though an improvement over the cluttered screen mess ClearChannel is running at Pearson Airport in Toronto

I like how Astral has resisted all temptation and made everything full screen, instead of breaking it up into content zones.

But the content itself is just shovelware broadcast news, CBC/RDI weather, lifestyle and entertainment stuff that is not at all in tune with the environment or the dynamics. Unless you choose to sit right in front of the screens, you don’t hear the audio clearly, and the content pieces have the same set-up as for conventional broadcast news. Simply, it’s not interesting.

My real sniff test is how many people were watching it. Like the never engaging CNN Airport, I saw very few people paying any attention in the 30 minutes I was in the lounge. Hardly scientific, I know.

What’s new since I was last in Montreal’s Trudeau Airport is a set of screens, maybe 37 inchers and dozens of them back to back, hanging in portrait mode around many of the check-in areas. Sponsored, or bankrolled, or managed, or something … by Bell, these screens play a simple transitioning slide show of high quality photos depicting the province of Quebec. Nothing fancy about it at all, but the Bonjour Quebec screens, as they are dubbed, are nice. They add to the environment and experience.

I have no idea what the business model around this may be, but my guess is it is simply a tool of Quebec’s tourism ministry, which has a website called bonjourquebec.com.

If anyone knows more, chime in.

Look Ma, HD with no wires!

June 19, 2006

This is intriguing.

I have seen some pretty nice demos of wireless video that didn't look like hell, but I didn't know it was possible to send much beefier High Definition video files across a space without running long, expensive cables.

Israeli company Amimon hooked up with Sanyo at the Infocomm show earlier this month in Orlando and demo'd a prototype gadget that delivered uncompressed 720p HD video content to a SANYO projector.

Says Amimon: 

AMIMON's WHDI™ technology enables wireless transmission in the 5GHz unlicensed band of uncompressed high-definition video streams with equivalent video data rates of up to 3Gbps (including 1080p) using 40 MHz of bandwidth in compliance with FCC regulations. Video data-rates of up to 1.5Gbps (including 1080i and 720p) can be delivered using 20MHz of bandwidth, conforming to worldwide 5GHz spectrum regulations. WHDI™ has been demonstrated at ranges of up to 100 feet through walls, and has a latency of less than one millisecond. All other wireless solutions are limited to delivering compressed video such as MPEG, which is typically not available at the output of most consumer electronic video devices. 

We've all run into challenging installations that could save on cost and grief if a high quality signal could be sent from a secure, environmentally sound central location without racking up bills for the cables and labour and so on. Wireless would make a big difference.

Using text-messaging to control screens

June 12, 2006

I wrote recently about Boston-based Locamoda's cool application for turning a cellphone into a remote control for digital signage. That one uses an IVR system to get the job done.

A new kind of program, put together by Digital View for Canadian outdoor ad giant Pattison, uses the pure capabilities of SMS text messaging to make interactivity happen.

A little disclosure here first. While I take pains not to hump my firm's business, if it is truly interesting and worth passing on, I'll bend my rule. This is my client and project. What makes this worth writing about is how this adds a new dimension to signage, by actively engaging consumers.

Briefly, large LCD projection screens have been installed in several malls across the country by Pattison to help its client promote its products during the World Cup. Shoppers come across a large floor sticker and a video attract screen projected on a prominent wall encouraging people to view one of five available videos by testing a specific number and requesting a specific video. The text message routes through an SMS service and is received by a custom gadget that converts the request to a code, which is fed as a media file request to the media player.

My bias aside, it is very cool. The client gets a sense of what Nike spots that people want to see, and they also send out return SMS messages to all the participants encouraging them to visit a Nike Soccer website.

This program runs to the end of the Cup, but there's a lot of potential for this sort of thing to promote such things as new films, music videos and TV programs.The notion of activelt engaging people with signage is awfully attractive.

Yet more nonsense

June 8, 2006

The guy at Strandvision, a relatively new industry entry, has a special place in my cold heart because he will issue a press release on ANYTHING in the hopes of generating attention.

Sometimes the stuff is relevant. Mostly it's just silly, like the one he did on a server upgrade. This latest one pumped out today made me want to write something.

"StrandVision LLC (http://www.strandvision.com), a provider of Internet-based digital signage services based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, today introduced an optional split screen viewing enhancement to its Internet digital signage player here at infoComm06. StrandVision is the first digital signage provider offering inexpensive signage solutions (starting at $55/month) to introduce this level of player sophistication."  

Simply put … "No!"

Split screens are common offers for virtually all the companies in this space, and there are other companies that offer rates lower than what is being humped here. I know one offer, in particular, that's about half that.

No signs in Vancouver

June 7, 2006

I am in Vancouver visiting clients, or more accurately, people I want to turn into clients.

This is one of the most progressive, and certainly one of the most beautiful, cities in the world. There is a strong technology sector here. And a very solid creative community.

But aside from some pure ad plays like LED lightboards and elevators, there is virtually no digital signage here. I walked all the way up ultra-hip Robson Street and the only sign of digital signage was a wretched little TV in a single souvenir shop. This on a street crawling with tourists and littered with the world's biggest fashion brands, with very chic stores lining the street.

It's hard to know what to make of that. As an industry, we're either not resonating with the decision-makers for fashion retail, or it's still early, and the big wave is coming. Hope it's the latter.

UPDATE – OK, I was wrong. I tramped around a bit more and did see one installation, at the downtown conference centre  — the one with the big sails for a roof. A series of smaller widescreens, along the centre walkway, makingpeople aware of what meeting was in what room. Nothing too fancy, but functional.