While Times Square will be packed on New Year’s Eve, the building where the ball drops is mostly vacant. Instead of income from tenants, the One Times Square property reaps annual revenue of $23 million from sign rentals, according to The Wall Street Journal. The New Year’s Eve viewership alone is expected to be more than 1 billion worldwide–the Super Bowl of the digital ad industry. But it’s hard to buy space for just one evening. Companies have paid a hefty annual fee for digital billboard space; Dunkin-Brands Group Inc ($3.6 million), Anheuser-Busch InBev ($3.4million) and Sony ($4 million).
Instead advertisers can book space at TS² (or Times Square Squared)–a package of signs offered by NASDAQ and Reuters. Advertisers can book 30-second spots on billboards framing the ball drop. But they don’t sell one night stands. Advertisers have to buy two-week ad packages–and only the biggest advertisers were allowed to buy around midnight.
According to The Journal, the Times Square Sign business is very old-fashioned. There’s no clearinghouse for rates and inventory. Business is transacted over the phone and prices are negotiable.