Plano, Texas — For RMG Networks, the growing availability of WiFi on airplanes was at first a nail-biting experience. Having signed long-term contracts to supply every major airline with advertising for their seatback TVs, RMG Networks understandably looked upon the growing availability of WiFi (via handheld mobile devices) as a potential threat to its flourishing seatback domain.
“We have found that it’s really analogous to today’s home environment, where we have families sitting on the couch watching television, but meanwhile people are multitasking and using iPads and other mobile devices,” explains RMG Networks CEO Garry McGuire, who says that digital signage networks — the firm’s signature offering — are among the fastest growing categories for media today, growing at about 14 percent annually.
Besides its airline media network — estimated to capture 100 million viewers a month — RMG has been busy outfitting malls and hotels across the U.S. with digital signage, as well as large, logistics-oriented firms like Amazon and FedEx.
“It’s easy to track and manage this type of business by sitting at your desk looking at computer reports, but if part of your day involves walking across a 3-acre logistics warehouse, it’s much more difficult, “ explains McGuire, who says that the top logistics firms are eagerly displaying data using signage displays throughout their distribution centers.
For RMG, the digital networks opportunity recently grew still larger last year when it acquired Symon Communications (of Plano, Texas), a technology developer that creates the software that connects the digital screens that comprise the networks. Together, the merged firms — projected to have captured between $70 million and $100 million annually in sales last year — have over 7,500 customers, including approximately 70 percent of the Fortune 100 and over 1 million installed screens.
According to McGuire, the challenge that RMG now faces is building out its global sales and marketing teams in order to deliver a consistent offering around the world to its largest customers.
“We have doubled the size of the global sales force in the past six months,” says McGuire, who projects that going forward the firm’s 250-member workforce will be adding head count both organically as well as through additional acquisitions.
“I think that we’ll be doing two acquisitions a year going forward, and we will be looking at both media acquisitions as well as technology acquisitions,” explains McGuire, who says that the disruptive intersection of media and technology has routinely challenged the firm to rethink its business model.
Such was the case when WiFi became available on airplanes. According to McGuire, RMG wasn’t about to risk its iron grasp on airline travelers and looked to broaden its hold beyond the seatback by signing exclusive agreements with the firms responsible for putting WiFi on the planes.
“We saw WiFi as a potential opportunity for a complementary media sale … so we really had to reinvent our business a bit to not just consist of advertising on digital screens, but instead to become more of an online media business in order to shore up the market share that we control,” says McGuire.