TVs on the Subway… for $104/Month

The perennially cash-strapped MTA has a brilliant new “revenue stream” in the works: turning 10-inch video screens in the newest R160 trains into TVs, complete with commercial breaks. The agency is currently running a pilot program on the Times Square Shuttle (where better to put up advertising) in partnership with TBS.

The station is running baseball highlights, and the subway cars have been plastered with ads from wheels to room. For that real bleacher experience, the seats inside the cars have been made to look like those at Yankee Stadium. MTA boss Jay Walder heralded the move in a statement as a crucial addition to the agency’s $127 million (and growing) ad portfolio:

The MTA earns more than $100 million per year from sales of advertising space, mostly through traditional print media, but this traditional advertising has suffered as a result of the recession. Our uncertain finances mean that we have to think creatively to maximize the value of our physical assets. One way we are doing that is by creating more dynamic advertising opportunities.

The Times spoke to one Jersey bank analyst who said he’d watch the thing at home if he could. “It’s too bad I can only take this train one stop,” Anthony Polini told the Gray Lady.

Whether on-board TV will be rolled out system-wide—maybe they could start showing movies on the A-Line, as it makes it blah blah blah—remains to be seen. Perhaps there hasn’t been more because, as Mr. Walder suggests in his statement, nobody has any money to buy advertising at the moment. (NO KIDDING!)

The agency has debuted similar ad schemes at Times Square before, such as wrapped cars and turnstile advertising, but they have yet to proliferate. It’s a mixed blessing. Do New Yorkers really need to be assaulted by even more omnipresent advertising? Then again, anything to stave off further fare hikes.

Indeed, it looks like this latest gambit won’t be enough to keep the MTA from jacking up unlimited Metrocards once again, as both the Post and Times report. Apparently there has been little interest in the proposed 90-ride, $99 “unlimited” card, so the agency will likely go with a truly unlimited card at the previously announced $104.

A final decision will not be made before October, but consider that the agency has yet to pull back from a card hike. And, that cards will now have gone up three times in as many years, from $76 per month in 2008. That’s an increase of 37 percent, or 12.33 percent a year. At that rate, Metrocards will cost $232 by the end of the decade. Here’s hoping the MTA can sell a lot of airtime before then.

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TVs on the Subway… for $104/Month