No matter how much its rivals spend on their International Consumer Electronics Show exhibits this week, Samsung will likely get to industry buyers first.
The company on Monday turned on its 100-screen video wall at McCarran International Airport, meeting a schedule to start beaming ads by Thursday's start of the massive convention. Passengers who strolled by after the ceremony mostly got to see high-definition flyovers of the Strip and people lounging poolside on sunnier days.
Under the terms of the three-year deal, Samsung Electronics provided the 46-inch liquid-crystal display monitors, valued at $570,000, in return for 30 seconds of ad time every two minutes during the weeks that encompass six major conventions and freezing out ads for major competitors such as Toshiba, Sony and Panasonic. The rest of the year it will receive 10 seconds out of every minute.
In addition, the new wall publicly launched the McCarran Digital Network, which will include one 10-screen installation in each of the three other concourses and a fourth at the taxi stand for arriving visitors. The Clark County Department of Aviation, which operates the airport, allocated $1 million for the engineering and installation, hoping to recoup it through its cut in advertising revenues.
In a digital wall created by what the industry calls "tiling," industrial-grade TVs are assembled in a rectangle. Each one carries only a piece of an image but together they form an entire picture, much like a jigsaw puzzle.
By contrast, the large stadium scoreboards. freeway billboards or displays outside Strip casinos are one panel with thousands of individual lights.
Aviation director Randall Walker described the airport wall as a "spectacular set of screens" and " adding another first for technology innovation" at McCarran.
But its also component of the airport's continuing search for ancillary revenues to hold down the costs charged to airlines. Alliance Airport Advertising, which manages indoor advertising, estimates the airport will receive $500,000 to $1 million year from its 85 percent cut of sales.
At this point, said Alliance CEO Shauna Forsythe, preliminary commitments have come in for about three-fourths of the available time, although she declined to disclose how many signed contracts there were.
Airport ad revenues have generally dipped in the past couple of years, she said, but showed signs of starting to grow again.
However, she said, the early sales effort indicates that the video wall will not cannibalize sales of smaller, fixed panel ads throughout the airport. "What we are seeing are new dollars," she said. "Much of what you see on the other panels focus on branding, as opposed to the specific messages we can put on the video wall."
A month's worth of video ads will cost $10,000-12,000, roughly the same as the vinyl backlit panels that ring the rotunda.
"I like it, especially that they are selling ads in eight-second increments," said Tom Crangle, president of Global Entertainment Group.
Eight seconds has become the industry standard for digital billboards along freeways, giving advertisers enough time to get their message across. Since it takes arriving passengers 45 seconds to ride from the top to the bottom of the Concourse D escalator, all the while facing the video wall, everyone can be exposed to five or six commercials before reaching the tram going to the main terminal.
Also, he said, producing a video ad can often run cheaper than the vinyl panels.
Samsung Vice President Doug Albregts claimed that the McCarran wall is the largest in a North American airport -- he didn't know what is the second-largest -- made possible by a combinations of factors. The 95-foot ceiling of the rotunda can easily accommodate the wall, measuring 19 feet tall and 33 feet wide, while the escalators create a captive audience and the Las Vegas convention schedule includes several tech-oriented shows.
Video walls have been around for years, said Brian Gorg, executive director of the Digital Signage Federation. McCarran has a 16-screen model in its baggage claim area that uses Pioneer monitors.
However, he added, the improving picture quality, software and falling cost had boosted their popularity in recent years. "They are by far one of the best growing areas of digital signage," he said.
Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at email@example.com or 702-387-5290.