This Gas Station-Based TV Network Boasts 70 Million Viewers Per Month

GSTV’s slogan is “Driving Consumers.” Make that 70 million consumers. Per month.

Over the course of a week, according to GSTV CEO and co-founder, David Leider, GSTV already has more viewers than 99% of all programming on television. “We’re growing very rapidly,” says Leider, “and soon we’ll reach as many people as the biggest events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars.”

Benzinga wanted to know more about Gas Station TV and how they’re bringing the TV experience to your local gas station pumps. Leider obliged. What followed was a broad ranging conversation about the company including its role in downtown Detroit’s business renaissance.

Benzinga: Could you talk a little bit about what GSTV is and how it came about?

David Leider: It’s really quite simple. GSTV engages consumers with news and entertainment while they fill up their tanks. We take advantage of a break in the day when people actually have the ability to pay attention and digest the programming and messages in front of them.

It all began in Dallas with a 5 station pilot at Murphy USA gas stations, which happen to be located in Walmart parking lots. You couldn’t ask for a better place to start. There we were, right next to the largest retailer in the world and with the opportunity to offer compelling ads at the point of purchase. Identifying and securing great locations has consistently been key to our success.

There must be some statistics behind the success of all this. What are they?

We work with Nielsen, Lieberman and other national media research companies. They tell us 97% of people prefer fueling at a gas station that has GSTV. And we consistently move the needle for advertisers in generating awareness and driving purchase for both new and established brands. In fact, research shows that marketers get 2x higher brand recall with GSTV than with traditional TV.

Speaking of statistics, you started with a 5 station pilot. What does the GSTV footprint look like in 2016?

I’m really proud to say that we just celebrated our 10-year anniversary. Over that decade, GSTV has experienced tremendous growth. 2016 looks great for us-more than 5,000 gas stations, 70 million monthly viewers, and over 200 DMAs.

Our rapid growth stands in stark contrast to trends elsewhere in the media industry. Ratings for the broadcast networks are continuing their multi-year slide, down another 10% this year. The decline is even worse among millenials – with TV viewing having fallen a stunning 34% in the last 4 years. Those left watching are getting bombarded with more ads and paying less attention. The picture is no prettier with digital – fraud, ad-blocking, and viewability issues are causing major ad agencies to re-evaluate their online investments. You can’t blame them – according to comScore, more than half of online ads never even have the chance to be seen.

GSTV offers a clear alternative – an opportunity for advertisers to reach a growing audience of young, affluent consumers in a captive environment on the path to purchase.

Can you explain the “path to purchase” a little more?

You don’t get up in the morning and say, “I’m going to go to the gas station and then head right back home.” The gas station is very often a stop on your way to doing something else. Over 60% of consumers at our stations are headed to another retail location. That’s the “path to purchase.”

Here’s the choice for a marketer. You can advertise on traditional TV where the viewer is at home, on a couch, with a bag of chips and a remote (which they’re probably using to skip your ad on a DVR).

Alternatively, if you run the ad on GSTV, it’ll be seen by someone out and about and ready to spend when you say, “Hey, go get a Big Mac,” or, “This product is on sale at CVS.” It’s a mobile, engaged consumer that is ready and, importantly, able to act on that message immediately.

In fact, we worked with a research company called Placed that tracked visits to McDonald’s following visits to GSTV stations, and they found that within 4 days of a station visit, the GSTV audience was up to 82% more likely to visit a McDonald’s than the general population.

So, this is truly targeted advertising, then?

Absolutely. Our network is addressable down to the station level, allowing us to deliver targeted and timely messages relevant to each location and the consumers that visit them. That’s the beauty of a location-based business.

In addition, we’re the only television network that delivers 100% drivers. If you’re a company that cares about targeting drivers (e.g., auto manufacturers, insurance companies, quick-serve restaurants, to name a few), when you buy programming on traditional broadcast or cable, only about 80% of people watching are drivers. Therefore, GSTV delivers immediate efficiencies versus traditional media.

How is programming packaged on GSTV?

It’s truly a unique, high quality mix that keeps consumers entertained while filling up. We feature content from leading programmers together with 15 or 30 second ads. The network is updated throughout the day with sports from ESPN, the latest news from CNN and HLN, entertainment from The Buzz Today, business reports from Bloomberg and hosted weather segments from AccuWeather.

What about saturation of the gas station space?

We’re a long way from full distribution, and that’s why GSTV is such an exciting high-growth business. There are tens of thousands of gas stations throughout the U.S. still available for our network. As a result, GSTV viewership will keep climbing as our footprint expands, all while ratings on television continue to decline.

Our goal is not to be just the largest location-based video network in the country. We want to be one of the largest video networks of any kind.

What about competition from online advertising?

I’m glad you asked. Hundreds of millions of online impressions are served up every day with only tiny amounts of interaction. In many cases, people aren’t even seeing the ads. It’s like using a big rubber mallet to hit a microscopic nail head.

According to the Media Research Council (MRC) Ad Impression Measurement Guidelines, a video can be considered an impression if 50% of the pixels are in view for two continuous seconds. That’s embarrassing. And there’s a massive problem with online advertising fraud. One thing I can assure you is that every one of GSTV’s impressions comes from an actual human being. Online simply can’t say that.

What’s the solution?

Marketers need to accept that TV and online are not perfect and they are over invested. They need to fully embrace adding other platforms that offer better ways to reach and engage consumers.

According to a recently released study from the Advertising Research Foundation, brands can increase the return on their advertising investment by increasing the number of media platforms they use.

There’s research showing that the more types of media you use, the more effective you’re going to be. We’ve added a mobile component, expanding GSTV’s reach and augmenting its effectiveness. Advertisers are coming around, but few are truly maximizing this opportunity. Again, brands are spending the bulk of their money on two things that are pretty broken – online and broadcast.

At the very least, we (GSTV) should be a complement to online and broadcast television.

GSTV is based in Detroit. How did that happen and how does it fit in to the so called Detroit Renaissance?

We gave serious thought to New York or Los Angeles in the early days. A couple things changed our minds. First, for obvious reasons, we thought automotive would be a huge driver of GSTV and we thought it was important to be close to the clients. And secondly, we discovered we could operate this business here for 30-40% less than in New York or LA.

We made the right choice. GSTV is the only national television network based in Michigan, and we’re helping drive the incredible re-birth of downtown Detroit. That’s pretty darn cool.