ECE flatmedia GmbH is Germany’s largest digital screen network in shopping centers, established in April 2008 as a subsidiary of ECE Projektmanagement G.m.b.H. und Co. KG (Otto Group) (after a brief flirtation and trial of the network being run and managed by Neo Media Group that everyone tends to forget about).
It’s deployed in 50 malls in 25 major cities and on more than 1,000 screens.
The acquisition by Ströer is a perfect fit for them as it complements their digital network (Infoscreen) in train stations (by the end of 2011 Infoscreen will have 1,000 screens at the 200 most highly frequented train stations across Germany).Udo Müller, CEO of Ströer Out-of-Home Media AG. told us “We are currently seeing digitalization reshape the market: instead of thinking in terms of TV, print, online and poster advertising, we will soon be talking about static images and moving images in buildings or outdoors”
He added “I regard them as the third column in the moving images market besides TV and Internet. With ECE’s screens we will reach further target groups … and we will be closer to the point of sale. Complementing our new digital screens at Germany’s major train stations and the screens in the largest shopping centers will give us coverage well in excess of 25 percent,”
Unlike many of the network acquisitions we have seen in the past 18 months (we are talking mainly North America here) this is not an acquisition done for a dollar or made out of necessity. This is the number 1 German OOH company buying the German number 3.
The new entity, which we think will be called Ströer Digital Infoscreen boasts 2,088 screens in 217 locations and unlike many so-called mainstream digital OOH players in other European countries (think London, think Decaux, CBS, Clear Channel etc) this network is truly spread across Germany (i.e not just based in one large or capital city).
We are separately told that Oliver Poppelbaum and Ingo Graf will stay on in Hamburg at the helm of ECE flatmedia) whilst strategy, finance and distribution will in future be managed from Munich by Stefan Kuhlow and Kai Thäsler.
We only have a couple of questions:-
- ECE flatmedia were one of the founders of OVAB Europe  and Ingo Graf serves as their financial guy. There’s no reason to think this might change but it will be interesting to see whether this acquisition will see Stroer join OVAB Europe (we think highly unlikely especially as, even though they are not members they co-operate and work closely with OVAB on standards)
- Ströer Digital has always used a proprietary digital signage content management system whereas ECE flatmedia chose Scala  in combination with IBM’s Tivoli network management. Whilst both networks are large enough to be run independently it probably doesn’t make sense to run two systems. There’s an opportunity for Scala here and / or a VUKUNET or Ayuda system to prove that they can run a large, successful, geographically disperse ad based network better than anything out there in the market.
FYI. Both networks started off using Samsung displays but recently ECE flatmedia switch to NEC.