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Thousands of digital screens will play video ads on subway platforms and trains

The digital screens will also help provide riders with information like service changes and when the next train or bus is coming.
Digital screens are coming to subway stations and train cars to display ads. Photo: Getty Images

In the near future, your subway commute will be inundated with ads streaming from thousands of screens on station platforms and inside train cars.

The MTA announced this week that it has awarded Outfront Media a 10-year contract to advertise in subways, buses and commuter railroads throughout the MTA network. The contract concerns traditional and digital advertising, and Outfront has big plans for the latter.

The media company will install 14,000 digital screens in subway stations and on platforms for the New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad networks.

These screens will be replacing some paper advertisements and also providing “both advertising and customer communications,” according to the MTA, including real-time information on the next trains and buses, track information, service status and planned service changes.

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But wait, there’s more – Outfront will also install more than 35,000 additional screens in New York City Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North train cars.

That means “traditional static,” nonmoving ads will be significantly reduced on cars as the digital screens take over. The digital screens will only play video and not sound, the MTA confirmed, and the train car screens will also be used for customer communication as well.

“This contract represents an entirely new approach for the MTA, offering dramatically improved customer communications, and an upside potential for more advertising revenues,” said MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota in a statement. “Outfront Media’s commitment to installing digital screens in stations and on rolling stock will provide us with new ways of generating advertising revenue, while at the same time giving us a new platform to quickly and effectively get relevant information to our customers.”

The contract with Outfront also comes with a five-year renewal option. The MTA estimates that installing all these digital screens will cost $800 million over that 15-year term. Outfront will handle that cost, which will be recovered from the ad revenues.

Along with the installation of the screens, Outfront will also be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the network. Per the contract, the media company needs to install more than 17,000 screens by the end of 2019, and more than 80 percent of all screens by 2022. 

Here's a preview of what your subway ride will look like once the screens are installed: