Digital OOH Firms Up for Sale

Two of the nation’s largest digital out-of-home companies are on the block. Cinema rep firm Screenvision and Premier Retail Networks, which operates in-store digital networks, were put up for sale last week by their owner Thomson.

Faced with mounting debt and the likelihood it would breach covenants, the Paris-based company said it would look to divest businesses that don’t fit with its core media technology businesses, singling out both PRN and its 50 percent stake in Screenvision.

In total, Thomson is targeting divestitures equal to about 1 billion Euros in 2008 sales.
National CineMedia would seem to be the logical buyer for Screenvision. Together, the two rep firms account for 82 percent of the cinema business.

During its 2009 guidance call with investors, National CineMedia wasn’t aware Screenvision was on the block and gave the typical response.

“I’m always interested in looking at attractive or accretive acquisition,” said Kurt Hall, chairman, president and CEO of NCM. Hall also noted that it could be difficult for Thomson to sell a 50 percent stake. (ITV, the U.K.’s biggest TV network, owns the other half of Screenvision.)

As for PRN, a number of companies would be good prospective buyers, such as CBS Outernet, which operates in-store grocery networks and is expanding into in-store retail, and NBC Everywhere, which has also identified digital out of home as a growing media space.