Shanghai taxi TV screens to be phased out

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the fact that outdoor LCD advertising would be illegal, but that the environmental watchdog could not do anything about the LCD screens in taxis. Well, it seems new rules banning ads inside taxis have come into effect this week, according to today’s Shanghai Daily. That does not mean that all screens will disappear overnight, but taxi operators have to remove them once contracts end.

Not good news for TouchMedia that operates most of these screens in Shanghai and that has VC funding from among other LG Ventures and Mustang Ventures. I hope they have back-up plans in place already, I assume this did not come out of the blue.

For taxi passengers it’s a good thing however, I don’t think I ever met anybody who actually liked the screens. I normally put the touch screen on mute and threw a coat over it (if I carried one), so it did not bother me too much. But I have friends who said they got car sick from watching the screens.

Could TouchMedia have avoided this? Nobody knows for sure, but I think that had they put an off button on the screen and sourced better content, they would have had a much better chance to continue operations. People generally like entertainment, just not forced entertainment.

That’s also what Hu Guang, a lawyer and a member of Shanghai’s chief advisory body, said: “Passengers should have the right to choose the services offered by taxis”. He was the one who put forward a proposal to stop video commercials in taxis, and it seems likely that he would not have done so had there been an off button on the screen. Too late.

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  1. Great news to me. I wonder about other forms of public transportation. I haven’t seen them here but down in Shenzhen they have those LCDs inside many of the busses.

  2. hooray!
    lcds in bus don’t really bother me as they are not really “in your face”

  3. I guess I might be the only person that likes them! At least the ones in London. But there we can turn it off as well as change the channels 🙂

  4. I definitely think the “option” to turn it off is a powerful one. Things like that make the targeted person feel like they are in control and are probably more likely to look at it instead of just feeling defensive. In Shanghai you can not turn them off.

  5. They had these in Singapore taxis about 5 years ago… then they disappeared because everyone hated them. Now they have strangely started to appear again to everyone’s disgust. Someone else must me willing to take the risk again.

    TVMobile (tv on the bus) on the other hand is doing very very well for itself.

  6. I had posted a comment to a previous post of yours about this… If you ask me, this would have been avoided if the screen had actually offered INFORMATION along with advertising. Everyone who has a TV screen in China uses it ONLY for advertising. Even in the metro, the DMG screens show ads or sponsored shows. If you want to know your next station, you have to check the crappy little map with the lights flashing.

    In your elevator, god forbid that Focus Media screen tells you today’s weather forecast!

    If they had added value for the VIEWER, for the CONSUMER, by adding news, weather, traffic information, or any of the sort, maybe people wouldn’t have rejected it so violently. It seems none of the guys operating those screens (save for DMG who shows the next train times on their screens, but that’s it), realize that for this to be sustainable, there has to be something in it for the viewer, not just the advertiser.

    That’s how it could have been avoided. Plain and simple. Japan does it like that, Singapore as well, Hong Kong as well, and others. It just makes common sense that you can’t just bombard people with PURE advertising without getting a backlash.

    So I say good riddance. If that’s how they’ll learn, we’ll all be better off in the end.

  7. Like Mimi, the tv screens never really bothered me. If I have problems with the noise, I just mute it.

  8. Actually, I think all of you have it wrong. This new reg will have minimal impact on TouchMedia as their agreements with taxi fleets will remain valid and enforceable. For example, if the term of the contract is 4 years (and I

  9. @Samuel If their contracts are 4 years I agree with you (as long as the government would not make it rules more tight when they see that nothing changes). It seems you have insight knowledge, are you by ancy chance with TouchMedia?

    If I would be an investor I would stay away from this sector. Not only is the government trying to regulate it, but also most people hate the screens. TouchMedia should at least put an off button on the screens (plus decent information/entertainment, not the crap that’s currently on there).

  10. No, not an investor or part of TM I’m just interested in advert industry in China. The new regs, from what I understand, require the LCD screens to have an on/off button. I was in Beijing a couple weeks ago and the LCD screen there also had on/off button. So your wish is coming true.

    I just wonder why the government is going after this small segment? I saw that they do a lot of content for World Expo and Beijing Olympics? I don’t know if they are making money off of this but isn’t this supportive of govt based initiatives? In some ways, if the government really wanted to go after Touch Media why didn’t they just pull the plug on the entire operation? You could argue sharing pirated content through web base video sites is more damaging than advertising in taxi cabs.

    Also, maybe you can help me understand, but I thought it is up to the advertisers what content they want to run on the screens. I don’t know if Focus Media or AirMedia run anything more interesting on their screens.

    Anyhow, you seem a bit overly negative – you’re taking this very personal. If you take a step back, I think there is a lot of value that can be had from a nationwide taxi network. Maybe you should try working with Touch Media to improve their content – I’m sure they would welcome your ideas.

  11. The government is not just going after this small segment but after all outdoor advertising. This seems to be part of it.

    With regards to content, the taxi ad companies (not only TouchMedia) were focused too much on quick money IMHO. One thing I learned over the years is that you should always keep the customer in mind. A nationwide taxi network is surely a good thing, but not if its sole purpose is to force feed customers with ads they don’t want to see.

    An on/off button is a good start, I hope more interesting content will follow. They can always get in touch with me for that.

  12. Everyone seems to agree on necessity of the on/off button, which I believe Touchmedia is implementing as well.

    I would like to understand from all of you, what sort of content do you think will make this medium compelling enough.

    I think the World Expo map was a decent piece of information, but what other video content?

    Music, News, Sports, Business, Entertainment?

  13. It’s August 2011 and they are still pretty much there. Has the extra press on the volume button from mute to off been a compromise consequence of this or was it there all along?