The digital signage news stream has been fairly active over the past several days. There has been quite a bit of news, information and fluff to digest and ponder. This blog was actually misidentified as a media outlet by one PR staffer (more on that later). To me, that was actually fairly scary, since this space is intended to be a resource for analysis, opinion and an occasional insight, but not so much on news. So here are a few items, each of which was potentially “bloggable”, with some comments on each. Plus, there are three opportunities to win a tasty prize.
DPAA’s Media Summit
The DPAA held their annual Media Summit in New York last week and generated a few newsworthy items. The organization, née OVAB, lists 21 members on its web site. Those twenty-one members consist of 15 network operators, two media measurement companies, two software vendors, an ad sales entity and one altruistic display vendor. They have been far more successful in capturing the attention of agencies and media buyers than other industry organizations, as demonstrated by the event itself. (I’d bet you a box of donuts that very few of the agency attendees, if any, actually paid the posted rates to attend, but no matter: they were there.) They have done a fair amount of good work driven by enlightened self-interest, including their Audience Metrics guidelines. Having been criticized for country club pricing and practices, they announced their intent to introduce a new fee schedule in order to attract new members. That may work out, although I am not sure. My best guess is that there will be classes of members, and if you have any doubt about who is (and will be) calling the shots, feel free to peruse the makeup of the Board of Directors or the Committee chairs. Here’s an opinion: DPAA would best serve the industry by merging with either DSA or DSF and becoming the Ad Council for the industry. But that would not serve the primary interests of those in charge, so it will not happen.
Other news from the Summit included the introduction of content standards, which revolved around “shapes” and format. I am a big supporter of the shapes concept: produce your content in 16:9, 4:3 or 9:16 and the networks will deal with it from there. It makes sense, and is consistent with what the vast majority of networks want to do with their screens. The format piece, standardizing on h.264 /MPEG-4, is a little bit dicier and gets somewhat technical. The published specs could be more specific, and leave some questions unanswered. For example, what are expected frame rates? What audio stream is acceptable? Is the bit rate max, min or average? Networks using VGA or DVI connections to their displays would have to down-code 1920×1080 content to resolutions supported by their commercial displays. Many would have to adjust bit rates and frame rates to optimize their players. This would come at a cost to networks that do not currently have resources for re-encoding. It is a good start, and DPAA is to be applauded for getting the ball rolling. More refinement may be needed.
Finally, DPAA announced the selection of a planning tool from Ayuda that will be offered via their website beginning next year. Free to agencies and advertisers, networks will have to pay to be listed. This represents an escalation of the planning tool wars that are in full swing: Entourage has linked with the IPG Media Lab; DOMedia is rumored to have inked an exclusive deal for its platform with StarCom; rVue has linked with over 150 agencies/buyers and about 100 networks (disclosure: RDM integrates with rVue). My understanding is that DPAA ran an RFP process to select a tool to back. Interestingly, DPAA Board member and Marketing Committee Chair François de Gaspé Beaubien happens to be the Chairman of Ayuda, which is no doubt working feverishly to adapt their billboard product to digital signage, and even announced a “free” tool, Symphony after the Media Summit. Forgive my cynicism, but after 7 years in this industry, I hardly find a questionable RFP process to be anything other than standard operating procedure. The product may well be valuable, and I hope it is, but gee whiz, no one else (including DPAA members) finds it worthy of comment that there may possibly be an issue of conflicting interest here?
CoolSign acquired by Haivision
I once joked that CoolSign team members ought to have digital business cards to save on printing costs after they change ownership on a seemingly annual basis. This time, they become a part of Haivision, a CoolSign partner that is deep in IP streaming and video distribution. Two thoughts here. First, it sounds like there were some investor issues inside CS Software Holdings, LLC, the previous owner of CoolSign. Very likely that a sale was the fastest route to quelling the issue, although I have no direct insight into that. If true, that would not be an unusual situation. Second, for Haivision, it represents a nice and complementary addition to the product set. It also represents a proactive response to the very hyped newcomer in their own space, BurstPoint Networks, who purport to be in the digital signage business in addition to their primary business of video distribution. I’d bet another box of donuts that whatever BurstPoint calls digital signage can’t touch CoolSign, so a nice move for Haivision. There will probably be minimal impact for CoolSign itself, as they should know how to press on with new reporting structures by now. One interesting sidelight: when DailyDOOH posted that a member of their Top10 DS Vendor List was about to change hands, my list of guesses had CoolSign fourth. That says alot about what is going on in the vendor space.
HP partners with Scala
Plenty of hype and an embargoed disclosure tour around HP’s entry into digital signage. It apparently amounts to some generic display and media player products and a partnership with Scala, bundling Scala’s QuickStart product aimed at the low end of the market. I am thrilled to see a big company paying attention to the space, as often predicted. Given how they have entered, however, I am hard pressed to suppress a yawn.
RMG announces Harrah’s deal
These were the folks who confused this blog with a media outlet. I was emailed the release, and got a follow up call from the PR person asking if I planned “to cover it”. I explained that I am not a news organization, and that this blog is just the ramblings of a software vendor and industry observer. She seemed stunned when I said I didn’t consider it worthy of a post. The deal has been out there for a very long time, looking for a home through a third party. No details of the deal itself were announced, but it represents another network for RMG to aggregate and sell ads for, which is clearly the strategy. Of note to press release watchers: when a hotel deal talks about 50,000 screens, you can bet (yup, another box of donuts) that the huge majority of those are in-room TVs, and that they are piping a feed to a channel on the hotel’s cable system, probably the one that pops up when you power the TV on. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but please don’t lump an in-room deal (and its screen count) with the casino and common area network. Some folks might find that just a tad misleading. I wonder if there will be different rate cards or if advertisers will be forced to buy the rooms to get on the other screens. RMG is hardly done.
Next week, we have a trade show, CETW, in New York. That ought to generate some more news and fluff to ponder. Come on by Booth #318 to say hello, talk about digital signage software, drop off a press release, or share a donut.