Now boarding the bus: TV

City joins with WRAL to offer shows, weather, ads

Staff WriterApril 15, 2009 

— Tired of missing your favorite CBS television shows while riding Raleigh public transit? You may be in luck.

The city announced Tuesday that it has partnered with WRAL and its parent company, Capitol Broadcasting, to install flat-screen televisions in a handful of Raleigh buses. The televisions will broadcast WRAL programming, public safety and health announcements, real-time weather and paid advertisements.

The pilot program is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation.

Mobile digital television receivers will be placed atop four Raleigh buses, enabling passengers to watch clear broadcast television no matter how fast the bus is traveling.

"Yes, that's right, television on buses," Mayor Charles Meeker declared at an event announcing the partnership.

The pilot program is the brainchild of City Councilman Thomas Crowder, who was first introduced to the receiver technology, made by LG Electronics Inc., about a year ago. Crowder said the program will burnish Raleigh's reputation as a city of innovation.

He also hopes it will eventually generate revenue for Capital Area Transit that can be used to install much-needed bus shelters across the city.

Raleigh is putting no money into the program, and it remains to be seen whether there is a viable business model in selling ad space around the WRAL programming on the screen.

The number of Raleigh buses with the technology is expected to expand to 20 by August 2010.

David Eatman, the city's transit administrator, said any initial ad revenue would go to repay WRAL and other private partners for installing the technology on the buses.

He said that if the program proves profitable, Raleigh would enter into a revenue sharing agreement with WRAL.

Eatman said what makes this pilot project unique is that, up until now, television in moving vehicles has mostly been taped to ensure a clean picture.

Jim Goodmon, president and CEO of Capital Broadcasting Group, said mobile receiver technology promises to turn millions of mobile devices into reliable television sets.

"This is sort of the last piece in the digital transition," he said.

Whether it's a piece that Raleigh transit riders want remains to be seen.

City officials say they will use the pilot program to gauge how passengers and bus drivers feel about introducing television with advertisements into the rider experience.

Meeker and Crowder both mentioned the potential for the televisions to keep the public informed about Amber Alerts, approaching bad weather or bus schedule changes.

"We'll see what the response from riders is," Meeker said. "I'm sort of intrigued by it." or919-829-4548

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