The battle by TV stations to grab the attention of taxi passengers just became more interesting — or irksome, depending on your point of view. NBC says today that its stations will pump infotainment and ads to passengers in more than 12,000 cabs — including 6,800 in New York — as well as thousands of gas stations in what it calls “a significant long-term strategic and advertising sales agreement” with electronic payment company VeriFone Systems. NBC used to have a similar taxi deal with Creative Mobile Technologies; early this month that company allied with ABC to serve 10,000 cabs. NBC and VeriFone’s screens will offer news, sports, and weather updates as well as other features culled from NBC’s primetime and late night shows, cable channels, and Universal Pictures. They’ll reach taxi riders in Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Miami as well as the Big Apple. At some point, the companies say, they’ll make it possible for people to download the content to their smartphones. But the deal is mostly about ad sales, and here’s where the plans begin to seem Orwellian. The companies say that they’ll make it possible for passengers to “make purchases directly from the taxi screen, simply by swiping their credit card through the system or tapping (near field communications enabled) mobile phones on the system already in place for fare payments.” In addition, advertisers can offer coupons from the printers used to process taxi receipts.
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