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Sunday, April 10, 2005

Mass Transit Becomes Mass Media, Boston Launches Subway TV System

MediaPost Publications Home of MediaDailyNews, MEDIA and OMMA Magazines
Mass Transit Becomes Mass Media, Boston Launches Subway TV System
by David Kaplan, Thursday, Mar 31, 2005 8:00 AM EST
THE DIALOGUE ON THE MASSACHUSETTS Bay Transportation Authority's subway system could go from "Do you mind if I sit down?" to "Do you mind if I change the channel?" as the Boston public transit agency is considering a plan that would put TV consoles on the trains and station platforms. The MBTA hopes that the ad revenue from having a closed-circuit system--the kind currently running in some office elevators and mall kiosks--would help stave off fare increases and service cuts amid diminishing state and local aid, a spokesman for the authority said.

"The estimates are that installing televisions on The T [as the Boston subway system is known] could generate $3.5 million in advertising revenues a year," an MBTA spokesman said. "We're currently looking for a network that would offer general newscasts in addition to advertisements. The kind of system we're looking for would be silent, with closed captioning and audio available on FM radio or FM-accessible cell phones. A plan is being submitted to the transportation system's board, and if it's approved, we would hope to have the TVs in place within a year."

The MBTA is currently facing staggering debt payments as well as a $10 million deficit in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Furthermore, MBTA officials are expecting a steep decline in revenues from the system's more traditional advertising, such as bus shelters, in stations, and on electronic message boards.

Atlanta is currently the first train system installing such a network, where the subway and commuter trains are being fitted with five 15-inch flat-screen televisions per car. The televisions on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, will carry a 30-minute loop consisting of 20 minutes of local news from an ABC affiliate there and 9.5 minutes of advertising. The programming is updated throughout the day.

The Atlanta system is expected to generate $2.3 million in revenue annually, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution has reported.

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