Verizon Discontinues The Digital Signage Service You Maybe Didn’t Know Existed
March 7, 2022 by Dave Haynes
Large telecoms companies have a history, all over the place, of entering the digital signage market with big plans and then, after it doesn’t work out, slipping quietly out the side door. The latest variation on this tale involves US telecoms giant Verizon, which has let its ecosystem and customers know it has shut down its digital signage services.
You can be excused if you are among those in the industry who did not know Verizon was ever IN the digital signage business. I kinda sorta vaguely did, and it’s my job to know that stuff. I do recall Verizon had a stand at, I’m thinking, the last DSE in 2019. But I didn’t stop in – probably because of the track record of these initiatives.
Verizon has changed its digital signage landing page to say that “Verizon Wireless has shut down the Digital Signage service for all customers as of the end of February 2022.” It goes on to say it is referring customers to Minneapolis-based Skykit, a cloud-based CMS that has its play-out software working on an LTE wireless device that enabled both connectivity and media play-out functionality. The transition page suggests existing customers can roll over to Skykit pretty seamlessly, use the same hardware, and still be billed through Verizon.
It doesn’t look like Verizon’s CMS software was done by Skykit and white-labeled. It’s easy to Google a little bit and see that a company called Tink Design wrote everything from the CMS to provisioning app for mobile to all the customer support materials.
This was the pitch for Verizon:
Verizon’s end-to-end digital signage solution supports customers across a broad range of industries and settings, especially those affected by the pandemic the most, (i.e., businesses, retail, banking, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, restaurants, college campuses, transit hubs, sports arenas, and concert venues). Digital signage provides contact-less customer engagement and can be connected where Wi-Fi is limited, provides information and wayfinding, creates compelling brand experiences, and streamlines visual communications.
By embedding a fourth-generation (4G LTE) connection to its Wi-Fi-connected media player, Verizon creates its own hardware by combining a router and a media player to solve core issues around connectivity. In fact, Verizon’s 4G LTE media player can connect to any HDMI-compatible display or sign. Verizon delivers campaigns over its fast and reliable 4G LTE network to ensure that traffic does not run on any corporate network. It also provides unlimited storage and a media playback function—making it a complete one-stop-shop.
As a single provider for hardware, software, and connectivity, Verizon guarantees superior security and simplifies the user experience. Furthermore, Verizon includes standard data price plans in its offering. Enhanced tools for the signage administrator include real-time device alerts, remote screenshots, remote reboots, and a companion mobile application.
I don’t get the sense this is a windfall for Skykit. If a big customer base had been established, Verizon would not be walking away. It will not have helped Verizon’s ambitions for the sector that it was trying to grow in the midst of a pandemic and the reduced operations, revenues and budgets of countless businesses of all sizes.
More broadly, though, the problem with the big telecoms getting into this space has tended to be their normal way of selling – slapping on a lot of margin (30-40 percentage points) among a lot of offers that were competing mainly on price. While the turnkey scenario plays well with many enterprise customers, those buyers still don’t have much appetite for paying more than they need to.
It would also not help that the people selling it were very likely also selling other connectivity and solutions products, so this was likely a product among many to pitch. I have seen digital signage pitched as the Oh by the way new/extra thing at the tail-end of presentations by large companies. The Verizon sellers and resellers were likely competing for business with pure-play software and solutions companies that have subject matter expertise at the table, and a ton of real-world experience.
I have seen this movie in Canada with Bell, Telus, Rogers and Videotron selling this as another layer of telecommunications services in places like retail. They’re in, they’re out, and then they’re in again … you get the idea. Same thing in the US, the UK and elsewhere. I bet it has worked out somewhere, but just not sure where …