Tuesday, October 02, 2007

i-vu bags $82M in investments, plans US, UK, EU salon expansion

While I can't find a press release or any news on i-vu's website, aka is reporting that the company just received $82m in equity money to expand their UK and US networks.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with i-vu, the company is a British-based captive audience network provider with screens in thousands of upscale hair and beauty salons on both sides of the pond. According to the article, "the investment from General Mediterranean Holdings GMH) will let i-vu increase its UK estate to 2500 screens and its U.S. network to 7000 screens by the end of 2008.

"The company says it will now undertake to update programming daily, and has added EMI to a roster of content partners which already includes the likes of ABC, BBC Worldwide and CBS, providing a total of 120 content streams. It will also move into production of its own content."

As the article also notes, even though the amount being invested is more than the total sum paid by CBS to acquire the (arguably larger) SignStorey network here in the US, the audience that i-vu has is quite different in that the average audience member spends about 90 minutes in the salon exposed to the medium. Contrast that with many grocery-based signage networks today that hope for a couple of seconds and a few fleeting glances at best, and you can see where they think their value lies.

Sadly we can't mash a whole bunch of numbers together as we did with the SignStorey article, as i-vu's (horribly annoying) website lacks a lot of detail. Based on the company's current monthly impression count of 1,794,000 viewers/month, they've received $1.90 for every impression that would be generated at the current level for the next two years ($82M/(1,794,000*24)). Of course, they plan to use the cash to expand to a total of 9,500 screens by the end of 2008 (and even more optimistically, 100,000 screens in 10,000 salons in the US by 2010, according to this press release), so those numbers are going to be skewed.

I can't for the life of me find out how many screens/salons the firm currently has installed so if we were to just assume that the 7,000 figure represents a quadrupling of their current size, then our $1.90/impression figure would come down by quite a bit, to $0.48/impression.

That's a silly way to go about looking at this investment of course, though given that i-vu's newer units are all touchscreen based, it should be pretty easy to get an accurate idea of how many "users" the system had over a given month.

I'll tell you one thing: anybody who spends $150 on a haircut -- and that's typical if you believe i-vu's data -- clearly has plenty of spending money. With the opportunity to score up to 90 minutes of face time with such an audience, it seems like a number of high-end advertisers should be taking a look at this network.

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