You may remember that TfL first took this approach during the (soccer) World Cup in Brazil last summer. Score updates were flashed up on electronic display boards throughout the tournament, along with the name of the TV channel who'd paid for them. Now it's ITV's turn to get its name in front of London's millions of commuters, and remind them to maybe watch later and boost the audience figures. But what precisely are ITV getting for their money, and precisely how much money is that?
Well, as part of their transparency agenda (and to avoid FoI requests), TfL now publish key commercial and sponsorship agreements in full on their website. If you want to know what benefits MBNA got for sponsoring the tube map, or how much of Canada Water station Buxton Water were allowed to rebrand for a day, then this is the page for you. In particular, we can all discover what to expect during the next seven weeks of rugby-on-ITV promotional activity.
Every Underground station has an ESUB, that's the tall narrow electronic rainbow board at the station entrance displaying line status updates and important travel news. During the Rugby World Cup these boards will also include a message from ITV, plus an eye-catching logo, to help keep you better informed about how the oval ballgame is progressing.
Meanwhile messages will also appear on DMIs, they're the Dot Matrix Indicators on platforms. Expect an ITV update, shorter than a tweet, to go scrolling past on the bottom row at regular intervals. But not at every station. The contract's smallprint reveals that the deal only applies to platforms on the Bakerloo, Northern, Central and Jubilee lines plus the DLR. If you're travelling on the Circle, District, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Piccadilly, Victoria or Waterloo & City lines there'll be no updates on the platforms, only at the entrance to the station. And on the Jubilee line the updates will only appear at stations from Stanmore to Waterloo inclusive, plus Stratford, and nothing inbetween. If you're a true rugby fan you might want to adjust your journey appropriately.
Each of the 48 matches will be covered, from England v Fiji on Friday to the Final on 31st October, but the sponsorship period lasts longer than that. It kicked off yesterday (I can confirm spotting a hard-to-read message in capital letters on the Central line platform at Mile End, and nothing on the District), and it ends on the morning after the Final (presumably for anyone who somehow missed the score).
No matches kick off before midday, so ITV are allowed one morning message to recap the previous day's news or make you excited about today. The tournament is so prolonged that there are 20 matchless days, which means this morning message is all you'll get, And on the other days...
When a match involves England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland there'll be live score updates throughout the match, ditto every match from 17th October onwards. But all the other preliminary matches (and I make that 25) are permitted only three updates - one at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end. The kick off update won't even have a score in it, so that's not much use. Indeed during more than half of the tournament's matches you won't be seeing live scores at all, only the half-time tally and the result. Even Ceefax used to deliver information more efficiently than this.
And I'm afraid even the live score updates might not be live. TfL will only commit to getting each message up on screen within 5 minutes of ITV informing them, and who's to say how long their initial composition will take. If I were truly interested in following the match I'd surely whip out my mobile and use wi-fi to discover what was going on, not rely on a sub-Teletext results service courtesy of ITV.
The campaign's launch was yesterday - perhaps you read the press release - although I can find bugger all mention of the deal in the Evening Standard, so presumably that failed. The media launch was at Southwark station, because it's just outside TfL's main office and it's quiet (look, there's a set of carefully composed Flickr photos for journalists to snaffle). But as yet there's been no mention of the launch on TfL's official Twitter channel (which, interestingly, is now called @TfL instead than @TfLOfficial).
You can't just turn up at a station and give stuff away, so it's good to know that ITV have permission for all the goodies they're about to distribute. Keep an eye out for location updates and you too could be collecting a branded bauble from a member of ITV's broadcasting elite. Incidentally, I didn't misprint the first sentence above, one of TfL's contracting team did that by themselves.
And how much are ITV paying for all this? That's specified here too, and openly revealed in the press release.
£160,000 plus VAT, let's call it £200,000... that's 19% of what MBNA are paying for a year's sponsorship of the tube map, and 45% more than Buxton Water paid for a day's renaming of a station. It's a tiny fraction of TfL's total budget, maybe enough to pay for four tube drivers' salary. It's about £4000 per match, or £3.32 per display board per day. If the BBC was doing this, it'd be the equivalent of 1375 licence fees. More to the point it's a tenth of a penny off your next Underground journey, because that's how TfL bear down on fares these days, by sticking advertising on Dot Matrix Indicators attached to out-of-date rugby results.