CEO Comment: Ken Goldberg, Real Digital Media

Planar’s announced acquisition of Clarity throws another log onto the fire of industry consolidation. Indeed, acquisitions have been coming at a much faster pace since the logjam was broken last year in the Thomson/PRN deal. Without question, the digital signage space has started to attracted multi-national, multi-billion dollar companies anxious to ride the next big wave. It is only a good thing for those of us in the space, and ultimately for the network owners and entrepreneurs out there.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of the Planar/Clarity deal (other than the price being a fraction of revenues) is the second hop for CoolSigns: first from AdSpace to Clarity, which by all accounts was not a great deal for the CoolSigns business, and now from high-end Clarity to mass market Planar. Geographically, an easy hop, but likely not the desired improvement in culture for the CoolSigns gang, who are software people at the core, working now for a succession of hardware types. Watch your inbox for resumes.

Planar’s bet (like Clarity’s) is that one-stop shopping will be a competitive advantage in the marketplace. In fact, it often can be. The rub, however, is that the differentiator in a digital signage deal is often related to software, architecture and support, and seldom on display technology. Large deals command the sharpest display prices from every vendor, often commoditizing displays, regardless of the latest innovations. Furthermore, digital signage deals are technology deals, and unless the software and technology-savvy salespeople are driving the deals, they are hard to win. Remember, at Planar, like at Clarity, the tail that wags the dog is the display business. And the software people will get constant reminders.

The consolidation won’t be slowing down. Market uptake on digital signage will continue to accelerate. Winners and losers will start to emerge in the software, hardware, network ownership and ad sales spaces. The big media companies and agencies have yet to be heard from. Hold on to your hats, it is just starting to become real fun!

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