Watch Out! NYC Taxis Get TVs

At a recent, sparsely attended press conference, Taxi & Limousine Commissioner Matthew Daus announced that seven companies would begin installing video systems in cabs this month as part of a pilot program. If successful, the experiment will spell the end of Elmo and the entire Celebrity Talking Taxi program – which has tyrannized New Yorkers since August 1997 – and the start of a brave new era in backseat entertainment.

In the meantime, however, a battle is on for the eyes and minds of passengers, whose feedback will decide whether taxi TV goes forward – and which company gets the commission. So let’s get ready to rummmble … for safety!

And for a piece of an as-yet-untapped multi-million-dollar ad market. “The average cab ride is thirteen minutes; you’ve got a captive audience,” says Corey Gottlieb, co-founder of Global Vision Interactive, which has put its screens in five cabs so far and plans to roll out 350 more within the year. “Ours is a fully ruggedized 12.1-inch touch-screen with news from NY1 and Fox News, a listings service, plus ads that run continuously,” says Gottlieb, in the cocksure tone of an infomercial pitchman. “I’ve seen everyone else’s, and I’m confident ours is the right one.”

So is Aron Chervin. His family firm, I Love Taxi TV, will have 35 DVD-based screens installed by month’s end, he says, and he’s banking on a magazine-show format of vignettes: “It’s going to be short subjects celebrating New York.”

Other companies include e-Taxi NY, whose model has a credit-card terminal and Digi View, with closed captioning, so the hearing-impaired can fully enjoy its 240 30-second ads. Clear Channel, Odyssey, and a company called 2 Bridge Media have prototypes in the works, too. Thankfully, they will all have a mute function.

Watch Out! NYC Taxis Get TVs