Housing Complex

Digital Advertising, Coming Soon to a Metro Station Near You

A digital display in New York, operated by CBS Outdoor

A digital display in New York, operated by CBS Outdoor

Metro stations around the city will soon be illuminated with screens bearing digital advertising and transit information, following a new contract awarded by the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.

The five-year contract, with CBS Outdoor, will begin on July 1 and bring WMATA a minimum of $102 million in revenue. In exchange, CBS Outdoor, which operates digital advertising in New York's subway and train stations, will install electronic signs in high-volume Metro stations. The first phase will bring about 50 new electronic displays, according to WMATA Assistant General Manager Lynn Bowersox; in a later phase, some existing advertising on Metro platforms may be replaced with additional digital advertising.

The screens will display not only ads, but also rider information like upcoming track work and service disruptions. They won't duplicate the train arrival times already displayed in Metro stations.

The displays will appear primarily or entirely in Metro stations, though there's a possibility of installing some in major bus bays like the one at the Pentagon. The first stations to get digital displays are likely to be high-volume ones like Metro Center and L'Enfant Plaza.

"Advertisers who are going to end up paying for these are attracted by the number of eyeballs, how many people will see those ads, and what are the demographics of that audience," says Bowersox.

CBS Outdoor is the current operator of Metro advertising under a contract that expires on June 30. The current contract guarantees WMATA a minimum of $8 million per year, plus revenue sharing for additional proceeds; WMATA expects its total revenue under the old contract for the current year to be about $18 million to $19 million. The new contract will grant WMATA a higher minimum, starting around $20 million per year, as well as a higher percentage of additional revenue.

"Over five years, the minimum guarantee is $102 million," says Bowersox. "But we expect it to be more than that." Bowersox hopes that the additional revenue will allow Metro to limit fare increases for riders.

A CBS Outdoor display in New York's Penn Station

A CBS Outdoor display in New York's Penn Station

Photos from CBS Outdoor via WMATA

...