South Africa: Media Firm Prepares to Capture in-Taxi Television Market

Technology & Convergence

Taxi commuters will soon be in the crosshairs of advertisers hungry for a slice of mass-market action with in-taxi television. The elusive solution to technology limitations and difficult taxi associations might have been found with the introduction of in-taxi television by Provantage Media, the company said this week. It is not the first time that a company has tried to crack the taxi commuter market.

ComutaNet is SA's oldest standing media company targeting this audience. In 1987 it started distributing Star Taxi Music, a prerecorded cassette tape with popular music and advertising for drivers to play to their audiences. Since then, in-taxi television has taken the spotlight, but due to technological and logistical difficulties it has remained a dream.

One of ComutaNet's more recent projects include Rank TV, in which permanent screens were placed at 11 of SA's most frequented taxi ranks, reaching about 1,2-million people a day. Now, Provantage Media is fitting 500 urban taxis with specially developed flat-screen televisions. The content will be called Transit TV and will be held on a chip, which will be changed monthly. "It will reach an audience of just over 2-million economically active South Africans on a monthly basis," says Provantage MD Jacques du Preez .

He says a single taxi transports about 4056 passengers a month, with a 2% chance that they will catch the same taxi in the same month. With an average journey time of 29 minutes, Provantage would provide a 30-minute looped programme, the company said.

With all this television, commuters will be spoiled for choice. But there are fears of theft, as well as concerns about the robustness of the units, dealing with taxi owners, and the cost of maintaining the network. Some are sceptical, especially after UK-based Cabtivate, operating a similar model, went bust after it owed drivers too much in incentive -based compensation. "Taxi TV is great in principle, but I'm not convinced of the feasibility," says Pierre van der Hoven of TBM Media, a company that specialises in captive-audience media.

But Du Preez says there are no risks. "The units are theft-proof and cannot be used with any other electrical devices except for the chip that we install," he says. He says the taxi associations, owners and drivers need special treatment and not many understand how to deal with them. The company will pay taxi owners for allowing them to place the screens in their taxis , as well as offer the drivers incentives.

Provantage does not require any payment from taxi owners for the R3000 liquid crystal display screens. The screens took only 20 minutes to install, which also helped to get the drivers' buy-in, the company said.

(Business Day (Johannesburg), 31 May 2007)

§ Africa Broadcasting and Media Congress 2007, (29 October – 2 November 2007) – with an extra IPTV briefing day