Denver Int'l Adds Customized Television Network

Ken Wysocky
Published in: 

Denver International Airport (DEN) is adding a touch of Hollywood to its nature-friendly culture with a customized television network. The project is not about red carpets and entourages; it's simply another program to engage passengers and make their travel more enjoyable. A national media company provides specially modified programming for travelers and ultra-targeted advertising is expected to boost non-airline revenue - another ongoing effort at the busy hub.

Launched in June, DEN-TV is a product of Clear Channel Airports (CCA), an industry-specific vendor with parent company roots in outdoor advertising. The end goal: Entertain DEN's 53 million annual passengers and inform them about things to do and see in Denver. The method: news, entertainment, sports and weather programming. The delivery mechanism: 30 high-definition TV screens sprinkled throughout gate areas. 

"Like many airports, we're in the guest-experience business," says Neil Maxfield, the airport's senior vice president of concessions. "We recognize that passengers are on a journey, going from point A to point B for business or for pleasure. We've taken time to understand who our customers are and what they want in terms of services or entertainment, and the answer is unique and interesting distractions during their transportation journey."

Project: Customized TV Programming 
Location: Denver Int'l Airport
Network Name: DEN-TV
Provider: Clear Channel Airports
Contract Length: 5 yrs.
Scope of Service: Customized national & local programming, 24/7
Content: Entertainment; news; sports; weather; local tourism info  
Equipment: 30 high-definition 46-inch color monitors
Objectives: Engage passengers at gateholds; boost non-airline revenue
Agreement Details: Clear Channel provides programming at no cost & shares 15% - 25% of associated ad revenues with the airport

But DEN also wants to create new revenue streams. Unlike the airport's previous television network, operated by CNN, Clear Channel's platform can provide hyper-local advertising that is micro-targeted to specific gateholds. Airport concessionaires, for instance, can buy advertising that's shown only at gates near their stores or restaurants.

"That's a big change," says Maxfield. "It's a digital platform, so [Clear Channel Airports] can distribute advertising throughout the airport so it hits certain flights and certain gate areas, aimed at certain demographics. It's a very powerful tool for advertisers."

Officials signed a five-year contract with CCA to operate DEN-TV. Per the agreement, Clear Channel provides programming at no cost and keeps most of the revenue produced by the ads it sells that run between segments. The airport receives a portion of all advertising revenue, based on a sliding scale. If annual ad revenue hits $1 million, the airport receives 15%. If advertising produces $1 to $2 million, DEN's portion climbs to 20%. If proceeds surpass $2 million, DEN's piece of the ad-revenue pie is 25% percent, which amounts to $500,000. During the first year, DEN is guaranteed to receive at least $150,000. After that, ads sales completely determine its receipts.

"We strive to find new ways to create new non-airline revenue," says Maxfield, noting that their success helps carriers remain competitive at DEN and encourages continued service. If ads on the in-airport TV network prompt passengers to leave their gates and make purchases, concessionaires and DEN benefit, he adds. 

That's Entertainment 

Customized airport TV programming satisfies passengers' desire for variety, says Faith Roland Quilling, business development director for Clear Channel Outdoor Americas. By including local content, airports can also provide "a sense of place" for passengers - whether they're arriving or departing, she adds. 

Launched in 2012, ClearVision provides a way for airports to offer passengers popular programs from major networks such ABC, Fox, NBC and others. Airports that partner with the media company can also add local programming and earn a portion of ad revenues. In addition to DEN, five other airports have added Clear Channel TV networks: Louis Armstrong New Orleans International, Cleveland-Hopkins International, Dallas Love Field, Gerald R. Ford International and Raleigh-Durham International. 

"We saw a couple other airports where ClearVision has been gaining traction," Maxfield says. "(So) we used an open, competitive bidding process to ask the industry to put its best foot forward - help us gauge and understand where advertising and industry gurus think things are heading." By soliciting proposals that "one-up the customer experience," the airport also hopes to earn non-airline revenue, he adds. 

The proposal that prevailed, DEN-TV, is aimed squarely at passengers who go directly from the security checkpoint to their gate - without stopping at restaurants or retail stores along the way, Maxfield explains. According to DEN's research, straight-to-gate passengers account for 20% of the airport's overall traffic. "The rationale for ClearVision is that while they're in that space, you can entertain them," Maxfield notes. "But you also can provide advertising on those screens that can motivates them to got to a retail or food-and-beverage location."

National & Local 

About 80% of the content shown on DEN-TV comes from national networks. Clear Channel's programming strategy follows the traditional "day-parting" format used by major networks, which breaks each 24-hour block into morning, daytime, primetime and nighttime segments. Local news, sports and weather (provided by CBS Denver) air at the top of every hour and half-hour marks. Some national news runs with the local content. 

The approach allows passengers at DEN and other airports with Clear Channel networks to see many of the same programs they see at home, in similar timeslots - American Idol and Big Bang Theory during primetime, for instance; The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live later at night. "There's a comfort factor at work here - passengers feel as though they're watching TV at home," says Quilling. 

There is one major difference, though: Shows are condensed into five-minute mini-episodes. According to Maxfield, the shorter airport versions provide passengers with just as much enjoyment as 20 minutes watched elsewhere - the approximate length of a half-hour TV show without commercials. 

Quilling explains that Clear Channel keeps programming segments short because passengers have diverse preferences for content and limited time to watch. "If they don't like what's on, maybe they'll like what'll be shown in five minutes or so," she remarks. 

About 20% of the programs that run on DEN's customized TV network are local rather than national. Content is provided by a variety of entities, including Denver and Colorado tourism bureaus, skiing organizations and attractions such as the Denver Zoo, Colorado Symphony Orchestra and Denver Museum of Nature and Science. 

Overall, each hour of DEN-TV includes 45 minutes of programs, 12 minutes of advertising and three minutes of "airport time," when DEN can promote whatever it wants - perhaps a new concessions area, Maxfield says. 

Aiming to Please

DEN periodically surveys travelers to support its continual efforts to improve the overall passenger experience and boost non-aeronautical review. Results not only provide airport personnel with demographic data, they also help them learn about how passengers use DEN's current facilities and what travelers think makes an airport great.

Sometimes results spur more amenities, like DEN-TV. While Maxfield considers it too early to determine how customers like the new gatehold programming, he sees positive indicators. "Concessionaires are buying up advertising spots," he reports, reasoning that brisk ad sales mean vendors value the network's targeted approach and feel they can motivate passengers to make purchases.    

The new in-airport TV network may also prove to be a customer-service hook. Even though DEN is a major national hub, it still wants to attract more passengers, Maxfield asserts. "Customers have a lot of choices for how they're going to move around the country," he explains, noting the limited availability of non-stop flights. "We're endeavoring to be the hub that people choose to fly through."

Quilling considers customized TV programming a national trend and an effective customer service tool. "Airports want choices - more variety," she comments. "It's all about creating a sense of place and engaging passengers during that 30-minute dwell time - or longer, if they're delayed. It's not just about the money; it's about providing passenger amenities."

Maxfield agrees about the importance of connecting with customers through service. "We want to continue to deliver that experience at a high level," he says. "It's important for us to understand who they are, then create opportunities for them to be wowed. If they book another trip, maybe they decide to book through Denver. It's about putting all those things out there so people see us as more than just a transportation hub."

More Screens

The new customized TV network launched at Denver International (DEN) this summer is the second major media initiative the airport has undertaken recently - both with Clear Channel Airports.  

Two years ago, the airport teamed with the media company for a large-scale video installation that delivers dynamic advertising and custom content on large, high-definition monitors. Over the next 10 years, it is expected to increase DEN's ad revenue by an estimated 40%, to $95 to $100 million. 

The program features four 26-foot high-definition Mitsubishi LED screens, mounted on the two elevator columns in the airport's central Great Hall. It also includes more than 118 LCD screens placed throughout the airport, and eight ultra-thin, bezel-video walls that hang overhead on soffits in the main terminal and post-security areas of three concourses. 



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