Digital-first publishers have fallen in love with Gas Station TV

The screens at gas station pumps are looking more and more like Facebook feeds.

Gas Station TV has been building a content slate of publishers that are popular on digital platforms, steering away from its past relationships with big TV networks like CNN and ESPN.

This week, GSTV partnered with First Media’s Blossom and So Yummy. Earlier this year, GSTV added Cheddar and Chive TV. They join What’s Trending, CNET, Stadium, MLB and The List. The partnerships are part of GSTV’s strategy to show content that can entertain consumers at the pump and in tandem inspire more advertising dollars, instead of just relying on repurposed content from cable networks. Meanwhile, the digital publishers say GSTV has effective distribution, and the Detroit-based team is a lot more enjoyable to work with than others.

“I can’t believe how big it is. Every single day someone sends me a photo of Cheddar on it. I wish I could buy GSTV. Plus working with GSTV is a lot more fun and easier than Facebook,” Cheddar CEO Jon Steinberg emailed.

“GSTV has been an amazing partner. I literally get posts on social and even people in person saying they’ve seen me on GSTV. It has an incredible presence and reach as well as retention. You can’t go anywhere when you’re at the gas pump so we have a captive audience,” said Shira Lazar, CEO of What’s Trending.

These digital publishers aren’t making exclusive content for GSTV — at least not yet. For now, they’re providing 20-second clips every week or biweekly, in some cases. The GSTV content team then uses it to program more than 18,000 locations. Publishers say the gas pumps are a complement to mobile distribution.

“In general, when consumers see you everywhere, you have a bigger opportunity to have them then follow you on social. You look around and everyone’s heads down on the mobile feed, but there are a few places in the real world where you can grab their attention,” said First Media’s chief revenue officer Charles Gabriel.

Leo Resig, CEO and co-founder of Chive Media Group, echoed the scale they see with gas stations. Chive TV joined GSTV in November. The deal aligns with a strategy to appear in more places out of homes. Recently, Chive created a spin-off company called Atmosphere to manage their distribution in restaurants, bars, cruise ships, airports and more.

“As with any digital media publisher, the past couple of years has had its fair share of headwinds of publishers trying to scale their audience whether it’s their owned operations or distributing on social. You can’t discount that GSTV reaches one in three people over 18 in the U.S.,” Resig said.

At the moment, money isn’t changing hands in these deals. It’s a “value trade,” Resig said. GSTV gets free content from publishers, which they can insert ads between, and publishers receive free distribution. But Gabriel of First Media said they are in talks for revenue sharing, and his company’s sales team is prepping how to include branded content in the slate for early next year.

“Most of the locations have a retail shop and within a few miles of a major retailer like Walmart, which we do work with. All of our content is set up to show consumers how to use products, create, be clever,” Gabriel said.

Connecting ads and publishers with customer data is a key focus of GSTV CEO Sean McCaffrey. He joined GSTV in September 2017 after spending more than 16 years at Clear Channel Outdoor. In April 2017, GSTV and Verifone announced a 50-50 joint venture.

McCaffrey and his new hires have been ramping up data collection and analytics at GSTV through partnerships with Acxiom, Placed, Dstillery, IRi, Nielsen and LiveRamp. Since inception, the pitch of screens at the gas pump may have included the fact that its consumers aren’t simply getting off their couch, fueling up and going home. But now, GSTV has more data to prove it.

GSTV sells ads at stations in a similar way to an addressable household, McCaffrey said. Advertisers receive behavioral data and audience data, all anonymized and in aggregate. GSTV claims to have more than 75 million monthly unique viewers and can target ads to specific markets, charging on a CPM basis.

Publishers, even though they aren’t getting paid by GSTV yet, praised McCaffrey’s leadership for focusing on new content providers.

“Ads on a screen are ads on a screen and dwell time is dwell time, but how can you get people to pay attention? How do you get ads in front of people without turning the world into one giant NASCAR with ads everywhere? People are realizing that you need a content-first approach,” Resig said.

More in Future of TV

Future of TV Briefing: How talent managers see creators’ professionalism levels increasing

This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at how creators are becoming more professional as they diversify their revenue streams.

Why longer videos are becoming more commonplace on YouTube

Short-form videos may have surged in popularity over the past several years, but the long-form video format is on the comeback trail.

Future of TV Briefing: How creators are setting themselves up for the career long haul

This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at how creators are preparing for the career long haul.