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National and Global, United States

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Gas Station Television...

IPTV or Fun at the Pump? In the midst of a a cruel recession for Americans, there's a diversion: TV at the gas station.

The number of televisions atop gas pumps has skyrocketed since their introduction at a handful of stations in 2006. Now, three privately held companies have placed more than 20,000 screens at thousands of stations across the country.

"We try to bring some fun to the pump," says the vice president of sales and marketing for PumpTop TV, an Irvine, Calif., company that provides screens and content at nearly 600 stations nationwide.

The TVs are also bringing in added revenue for gas retailers, who have recently seen their margins shrink because of an increase in fuel-load costs and credit-card fees.

When the owners advertise anything from candy bars to car washes on the TVs, they say in-store sales rise compared to stations without the screens.

Gas Station TV says that in tracking its retailers' sales, stores with screens installed on pumps report selling 75 percent more car washes and 69 percent more snacks if those items are advertised.

TV programming at the pumps varies by location and provider.

One company provides real-time traffic, local sports scores, headlines and weather.

Another carries trivia and NBC content. Gas station TV broadcasts CBS programming and carried an American Idol-type search earlier this year.

These companies pay gas-station owners "rent" in exchange for placing the flat screens above the pumps, and the retailers also can advertise specials or products inside the convenience store.

Once a customer starts the pump, the TV comes on - and stays on.

There's no way to change the channel or mute the volume. So people usually tune in.

"The customer is tied to the screen with an 8-foot rubber hose for five minutes."

It also appears that people remember what they see on the pump TVs: According to a Gas Station TV and Nielsen Media Research study, 70 percent of the people who watched the ads remembered the products advertised, and 89 percent of consumers surveyed were willing to buy a product after seeing an ad atop the pump.

Finally, if I could just figure a way to vend prepared food at the pump...'Fun at the pump'.

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