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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 6, 2006

More than just gas at the pump

By Seth Sutel
Associated Press

A motorist watches a television installed at the pump, while filling his car with gas. Gas Station TV is betting that its new product will appeal to many who find the ritual of pumping gas to be “boring and mundane.”

GSTV photo via Associated Press

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NEW YORK — TV seems to be everywhere these days. At the supermarket, the mall, and now, thanks to a Michigan-based startup company, the gas pump.

Gas Station TV, based in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park, has been testing its service for several months in Dallas with TV monitors installed above gas pumps that show short clips of news, weather and traffic, and, of course, advertising.

This fall, the company plans to expand the program to a total of 100 gas stations in Dallas, Houston and Atlanta, all owned by Murphy Oil USA, which operates filling stations at Wal-Mart stores.

Walt Disney Co.'s ABC will sell ads for the screens and also provide local news, weather and other programming for the screens, mainly from ABC's locally owned or affiliated television stations.

David Leider, a former marketing executive at Yahoo Inc. who is the company's chief executive, says they are focused on making the programming useful to users and tailored to the average length of time it takes to fill up with gas — about four minutes.

"We will not over-advertise," Leider said. He said the company received overwhelmingly positive feedback from users and gas station owners in the handful of locations in Dallas where it was being tested.

The video will include news segments from local TV anchors, traffic updates as well as some consumer-oriented segments from ABC's "Good Morning America."Since gas pumpers won't be able to switch off the video, keeping it relevant and engaging is key, Leider said.

"Pumping gas is boring and mundane," Leider said. "We live in a very can't-sit-still, multi-stimulus environment. We are convinced that people will be very favorable to this experience at the gas station."

The company's main backer is DHW Capital, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm, but company executives declined to release financial details such as how much had been in invested in the company. Representatives from Murphy Oil declined to be interviewed.

Leider said he expected the company to become profitable next year, after it rolls out its service to the 400 locations it hopes to reach by the beginning of 2007. The programming will be distributed to the screens electronically through secure feeds over the Internet.

Several advertisers bought spots on the service during the test run in Dallas, including PepsiCo Inc., The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., and Allstate Corp. Leider said the company was in active discussions with advertisers but had not yet signed any firm commitments for the wider launch in the fall.

In March, CBS Corp. signed up to become a programming partner with SignStorey Inc., a Fairfield, Conn.-based company that has video screens installed in 1,300 supermarkets.