Monday, August 20, 2007

NBC TV coming to a New Jersey train near you...

... provided that you live in New Jersey and take the PATH train, that is. According to this blurb on Media Buyer Planner, "NBC content, including local news from NBC's New York flagship,

WNBC-TV, will play for PATH train passengers beginning in 2008. Eight
TV screens are being installed in each of 340 train cars that make up
the trains that travel between New Jersey and New York City. Screens
will also be installed on PATH train platforms." The deal is apparently part of a larger agreement with JC Decaux, and is a further indicator of NBCU's intent to get more seriously involved in out-of-home media.

I've always been a fan of in-train entertainment. When I've run into it in the past, the screens have generally been non-intrusive, they've run useful information (usually news, weather, and a smattering of other locally-relevant info), and most importantly they've had the audio turned off. I've even seen a few cases where they broadcast the audio on the FM band, so if you have a walkman or MP3 player that can tune FM, you can listen in. But it's entirely at your option. One thing that I'd hate to see is an NBCU in-train TV system that had the audio blaring all the time. That would get me irritated in a hurry, even if I was already trying to drown out the din of the train with tunes blasting from my iPod.

That having been said, I know of some other people (who ride trains much more frequently than I do), who've repeatedly complained about the numerous in-train TV systems that have gone to trial. There's a certain subset of daily commuters who look at their train ride in and out of the city as a last bastion of quiet time. Sure, they can whip out their Blackberry or laptop if they really want to get some extra work done. But they can also listen to music, read a book, or just vegetate without distraction.

Then, of course, there are the economic issues to consider. For example, how much distraction is it worth to keep train fares low? If installing an in-train TV system will allow the train operators to avoid a $2/ticket price hike, would that make it more acceptable? Will the additional revenue from advertisers allow the companies to run more trains, reduce congestion, or improve other services? What if they rolled it out with free WiFi for people who did want to use their laptops while riding?

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