Top 10 Digital Signage Vendors 2008 Part 2

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday 21st December 2007 we posted our list of Top 10 Digital Signage Vendors…

=1 Cisco
=1 EnQii
3. Broadsign
4. C-nario
5. YCD
6. ScreenRed
7. Scala
8. Remotemedia
9. TELentice

In that first post we detailed the (obvious) folks who never made our ‘cut’. Now it’s time to look in a bit more detail at those in the top 10 and more importantly why they are there.

First of all, let’s look briefly at our joint number 1’s; Cisco and EnQii.

Cisco is well known of course as the worldwide leader in networking technology but just over a year ago they purchased a 10 man digital signage software outfit called Tivella and so entered the already crowded digital signage market.

EnQii/Digital View Media (as they still prefer to be called at the moment) emerged from a number of acquisitions and is probably much, much more of a fully integrated solutions provider than a pure play software vendor but the ‘Digital View Media’ part of the organisation if you like has a great software offering.

We ranked both of these organisations as equal number 1 due to a number of different reasons. In no particular order, both are global operations. Cisco is so obviously global, with operations in almost every country you care to think of. EnQii, unlike many other solution providers are also incredibly global for such a young company with offices in London, New York, Toronto, Hong Kong, Dubai and Melbourne.

They also both offer a device / appliance rather than a PC based solution. Whilst not the be all and end all of reasons (we do have several PC based signage solutions in our top 10) we do think that devices / appliances are a much better way forward for delivering signage solutions. We predict more and more of the larger installations in 2008 will be device based – there is also a growing trend, especially amongst retailers, to choose device based solutions (ease of management, small footprint, ‘greener’, etc.). We were going to say ‘cheaper’ but think that it is a fallacy that devices are necessarily cheaper to deploy (NOT manage – they are definitely cheaper to manage) than PCs. The Cisco DMS solution for example is not exactly cheap 😉

Another trend that we like is the Software as a Service (SaaS) ASP model much trumpeted by Broadsign (and others of course) who came in third in our top 10.

We feel that Broadsign are let down by their PC only strategy at present (we hope that will change) but that minus is somewhat mitigated by the fact that they do support both Windows and Linux. We do stress here that “Linux on a PC does not an appliance make” but it is certainly better than Windoze.

Broadsign are also let down by the number of folks they have covering Europe – a let down in fact that we can rail against for almost all the non-European vendors in the top 10 apart from the top 2 (and perhaps to some extent Scala).

Broadsign has a lot of pluses though – it has a great, modern software offering and whilst not completely in the Web 2.0 model, its focus on offering it purely via SaaS / ASP has won it some big screen networks. Interestingly the big networks it has won are the folks, especially in Europe, that we most admire too – that’s because they are networks like POSTV and Neo Advertising (now one and the same of course since the acquisition of the former by the latter) that are focused and driven – they know what their business is, where their revenues come from and what they need to concentrate on – and in nearly all but the most exceptional cases no real benefit can be gained by running your own network infrastructure and writing your own software.

Both of those networks independently chose Broadsign, and let Broadsign concentrate on what they were good at doing so they in turn could focus on what they were good at doing.

To improve, Broadsign need to think more about devices than PCs – we would like to see a product roadmap from them for the next few years, adopt more of a Web 2.0 approach to components and most importantly, come to Europe with offices and staff not just a couple of salesmen dotted around Vienna and Majorca!

There are a couple of Israeli manufacturers in our top 10 – highlighting what we have often said in presentations and research reports during 2007 that Israel and the Far East will increasingly be a source of digital signage solutions.

The first of these is C-nario. We said in our first post that most of the software we have seen in the digital signage market is pretty much the same – there is of course good and bad software but most of it does the same job in pretty much the same way. C-nario is the only company that has anything unique – the ability in real time to handle geometric and colour correction (handles curved surface projection via software on tiled and multi-walled screens etc.)

C-nario have had a lot of success with JC Decaux in the US and Clear Channel (especially with those awful Magink screens) and only narrowly missed out to TELentice on the CBS Outdoor London Underground project and also tout the O2 arena as a design win. Their biggest issue we feel is common amongst the Israeli vendors – the lack of feet on the ground in Europe and the tendency for their sales guy (yes usually only one) to fly in, meet in London, travel to Paris, visit Amsterdam and then fly out again (sometimes with the CTO).

If C-nario are serious about being a big player then they need to establish a good sized, permanent presence in Europe – probably Paris or London if they are equally serious about the (lucrative) Outdoor Media Owner’s market.

YCD are at number 5 in our list simply down to the fact that they have a fabulous music offering. Our research and presentations has highlighted the importance of being able to offer music to screen networks and it’s not simply the ability to play out a string of MP3 files!!! YCD’s music offering is we believe, the best on the market. Where YCD is let down, is again, in not having a strong employee presence in Europe and a reliance on Israel as a market for reference customers. Whilst YCD have Imagesound as a customer, they only have about 10% of their installed base using their system. YCD need a couple of bigger network partners in Europe – not simply the signing up AV installation partners. YCD are ambitious and aggressive with big plans and are very worthwhile keeping an eye on.

Screenred is the software offering, announced at ScreenExpo 2007, by John Ryan International. Previously only used by John Ryan (themselves) and only then it seems for retail banking, the launch of Screenred was their attempt to give their software (deservedly) a wider appeal.

Screenred was one of the first web only interface CMS offerings and is still probably one of the best out there but unfortunately the players run on Windows based PCs (which you know we don’t like). Screenred has failed though in its attempts to win any big business in its first year of operation. Their business development strategy has been flawed – especially in its attempts to get the right sort of channel partners on board. Their first year of operation if you like, could have been so much better. It’s a shame because even with Windows as a platform Screenred is one of the easiest to use and best performing signage solutions out there.

It may look like we are beating up on Scala at the moment, what with our criticism of the recent Frost & Sullivan report on their market share, and having them here in a lowly 7th place but far from it. If you are doing an RFP or a tender the first company you would put on your list to contact would be Scala AND rightly so!!

Scala are the old boys of the digital signage world and have an installed base and heritage second to none. We rank them lowly here for a couple of reasons; first they are adept at always appearing bigger than they are. Whilst they claim a huge European presence and we admit that they are larger than all but the top 2 in our list with staff, we reckon they probably only have a dozen folks at the most covering a huge region.

Scala often shout about their 20 years in the business. With that fact though, they should be at least 10 years ahead of everyone else so it is a shame, having already done one migration from Commodore Amiga to PC that they are still only run on a Windows PC platform today.

One thing to say about all the software that runs on Windows is any vendor’s claim (Scala included) that says their signage solution is 24 /7, robust, resilient etc etc. IT ISN’T, not in a million is it not!!!

If the signage solution runs on Windows then you are relying on Windows and the PC underneath it to be 24 /7, robust, resilient etc etc. BSOD says differently!

Lastly, we have never been happy that when they claim a win (usually with a fantastic press release to go with it) if you look a bit deeper all is not what it seems. One example in 2007 was BanestoTV – sounds fantastic doesn’t it? Yep, that’s right – the large Spanish Banesto bank with its very own branch based screen network. It’s only when we look in more detail that we can find only one branch in Madrid with screens and when asking around other suppliers we are told it is a local install and not a national roll out at all.

Remotemedia, the only English company in the list, in at number 8. These guys are small, but are honest about it and are really, really punching above their weight. With a particular focus on retail and a SaaS / ASP and Windows CE based offering they are doing deals in the US and looking at franchising elsewhere. They have won numerous awards (not we feel for their best work either) and can lay claim to some incredibly prestigious networks.

Their SignageLive offering as they call it has a great web site, has great reviews and fits the Web 2.0 and component model we like so much perfectly.

TELentice lost its only European sales guy to Broadsign a month or so ago but they did win the CBS Outdoor London Underground business against incredibly stiff opposition. These guys need a European presence and some serious marketing but you cannot doubt the efficiency of CBS Outdoor (and Arqiva the deployment partners in the project) with their own technical due diligence. The TELentice solution is definitely worth looking at.

Lastly, just making it into the top 10 is Stratacache. Stratacache also recently lost their own Brussels based European salesman and with it a couple of potential big deals in the emerging markets otherwise they might have been higher up the least. These guys with their huge but hidden installed base in the bowels of corporate IT organisations everywhere should be giving Cisco a run for their money (their offering is very similar to the Arrowpoint technology – the company that Cisco acquired a while back, which became the basis of Cisco’s Content Distribution strategy – a forerunner and now an integral part of their overall WAN based DMS strategy).

Stratacache need to recruit heavily in Europe and start leveraging their corporate IT contacts worldwide.

27 Responses to “Top 10 Digital Signage Vendors 2008 Part 2”

  1. MikeB Says:

    I note that you have said nothing about the economic results or financial condition of any of the firms. Cisco is public so no comment is needed, but what about the rest. Perhaps you wanted to focus on product characteristics and customer infomation, but it would be interesting to learn if any of these firms are economic successes.

  2. Rami Bahar Says:

    I wish you and all your readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2008!
    Thank you for your kind words about C-nario, and for putting us high in your top-10 list. I thought it will be usefull for you to know that beside the sweating sales person you described (and the inevitable CTO…), we have a C-nario Europe office in Utrecht, Netherlands (now moving to France), country managers who live and act in UK, France and Russia (managing both sales and local support tasks), C-nario Asia Pacific office in Singapore, and 2 offices in the US – in New York and in San Francisco.
    In addition, we have 2 regional sales managers to EMEA, and a large team of sales engineers to support our partners in each country of each region. During 2008 we plan to recruit country managers for Germany and for Nordic markets, as we foresee growing business there.
    On top of all that we have great partners in most of the European countries who are running their own business and promote C-nario products as part of their growth strategy.
    We foresee a great year for Digital Signage industry in Europe and worldwide, and we are well prepared for that. Also marketing & sales wise.

  3. Bill Gerba Says:

    I agree with MikeB – When competing with vendors or participating at trade shows, I *always* tell people to ask about each vendor’s financial health.

    Despite having a superior product, I’ve found that sometimes simply being profitable and growing is our biggest and most important differentiator.

  4. Claude Says:

    BroadSign is also a major player in ME and especialy Gulf Region with large networks (+300 players installed).

    I am surprised about Cisco position. We know that Cisco handles network applications (DS, RFID, IPTV, …) in their catalog only to sell their full network family products but after few months, they are not able to give any sales input to their channels… I had many times the cases. and the main reason is only because all these solutions come from third part companies (acquired or not by Cisco).

  5. Ruan O'Tiarnaigh Says:

    Hi Adrian,
    I am surprised at your anti windows comments in relation to Scala. Dont get me wrong, I’m not a windows fan, but our experience with 200 Scala IC5 sites on windows is contradictory to your expressed views.

    That is not to say we dont have issues. Broadband, routers, hard discs.. yes to all the above and more, but windows… eh.. sorry but no.

    Why not pop up and visit us some day and I’ll demonstrate what I’m talking about.


    Gym Screen Media

  6. Ryan Says:

    I like your list but feel as if you left out a major player in the Digital signage industry inLighten. A company that has been around for 20 years and is the industry leader in content. Also the compnay has 0 fincial dept, making it stable and a great choice for future customers.

  7. Adrian J Cotterill Says:

    Ryan, none of our researchers and industry analsyts have EVER heard of inLighten AND we regularly travel, talk to anyone and everyone and cover the whole of Europe, Middle East and Africa!!! Happy to learn more if someone from inLighten wants to make contact.

  8. Doug Says:

    Whilst I am in agreement with your (and others) re Windows reliability, we manage and have managed a range of networks over several different platforms – solid state, Linux/Unix as well good old MS and NONE of them are totally 24x7x365 reliable. You can build in a range of fail-safes but in our humble experience, a typical financially viable playback platform will never be 100%. The Windows/PC platform just makes it easier to support…

  9. Kormak Says:

    Regarding windows…. nowadays a well configured customed (biult to work with your DS app) Windows XP Embedded is reliable as can be Linux or Unix.

    We have experience on large DSN and, form our experience, 70% issues are comm issues, 25 % are due to hardware problems and only less than 5% are due to OS fails.

  10. Bil Trainor Says:

    I have just bumped into your site and the assessments you’ve published. While my firm and our AudienceTM platform did not make it to your “top 10”, I can assure you that we are pleased to have “bake-offs” with any of those you’ve chosen anywhere, anytime. In fact we’ve won quite handily against three of them so far.

    I’m curious to know the criteria for comparative testing such as this as your comments seem to be thoughtful and productive.

    Best regards,

    Bil Trainor

  11. Adrian J Cotterill Says:

    Bill. Our Part 1 explained some of the criteria, see for more detail.

    I quote from that initial post…

    “So, what we are looking for in vendors may NOT be what others are looking for but we feel that the following are some of the most important points when choosing a vendor and their product: –

    * worldwide coverage – employees, offices, support
    * a TOTAL SOLUTION not just a piece of hardware or software
    * big internal development teams
    * devices not PCs
    * (If PC) Linux not Windows
    * ASP / SaaS offering
    * Solid Product Roadmap going forward (innovation)
    * Financial Stability
    * Proven Track Record – minimum of several 1,000+ site deployments”

    We would have had to have heard of you in Europe, Middle East or Africa for you to have been considered.

    Tell us about yourselves and we would be happy to talk about you, point us at your customers and we would be happy to talk to them!

  12. Derek Kuziw Says:

    More than a little surprised that you haven’t got Net Display Systems in your list. They are successful,profitable, long established with incredible functionality in their PADS 3.1 Applications. Sold in over 65 countries, they have an impressive base of end users from Coca Cola, Rolex to Marriott, Toyota and Porsche. And we should know as we have been successfully distributing their products in The UK for almost 2.5 years to our 2000 dealers under the A+K PADS brand name. Derek Kuziw – Managing Director Anders+Kern

  13. ES Says:

    Its great that you reviewed the services on the other side of the water. We have reviewed two of the services in your top 10 list but were wondering, is there a plan to review US based services that have just as much presence.

  14. Ahmed ElRidi Says:

    Well, I am amazed of the positioning that you have above, specially when you are ranking companies based on the technology, not the proven track record of the installations.

    We work with SCALA as a client in the GCC and believe me we have 1000+ players running in the field in more than 40 networks with 7 Banks (3 of them are nation wide) and we ca prove it if you need further info.

  15. Phil Austin Says:

    I have left a response on this. see

  16. Clinton Gallagher Says:

    Hey, hey, hey let’s just hold on a minute. I got one in my basement I’m working on. How come I don’t count?

  17. Erez Turin Says:

    Hey Adrian — Isn’t it time to update the content of the list? According to your site YCD has made some major strides lately.

  18. tim Says:

    i wonder why you did not mention the 42mediagroup…they are the by far biggest Player in Germany! They run the biggest Networks over here (Postbank, getTV, medimax, etc.)! I could imagine that they soon will spread out all over Europe…for now they seem to be focused on the german market, but this could change anytime soon!

    In my opinion they need to be on your list!

  19. mark fleisher Says:

    My company operates four ad supported networks including one in a large regional supermarket chain. We almost went with Broadsign because we agree that their software worked well. Also the SAAS solution made a lot of sense from a financial view point. However, the big stumbling block was Broadsign’s contract.

    After shopping for software for two years and studying the various choices we never saw a contract so slanted against the customer. The biggest problem was the ownership of content. Broadsign’s contract said they would have the right to use all content we place on their servers. As a SAAS system that meant all of our content would become the property of Broadsign.

    I am sure the bigger players were not presented with this kind of contract. But if they were, I am sure that stipulation was deleted. As a result, we were turned off by the Saas concept.

  20. Isabel Gysels Says:

    dZine is a key player in digital signage with an installed base of over 100.000 players worldwide. We deliver total solutions to our customers, not based on Windows. We are a devoted innovative company founded on a strong dedicated team of engineers. With its track record of over 15 years, dZine is rapidly expanding worldwide.
    Why are some companies, only working on Windows PC based platforms mentioned in the list, while this was one of the criteria to be excluded from the list?
    Maybe an updated list would be a good idea?
    I would be happy to talk to you.

  21. Gary Hiramoto Says:

    Your list of top digital signage providers does not include inLighten. Inlighten was founded in 1990. Today the company services over 1,000 financial institutions across the united states in thousands of locations. The company authors software for both desktop and web publishing of multimedia content. Producers hardware from single video outputs to fully integrated videowall solutions. In addition, the company provides complete content support, inlcuding live news, music, creative installation, etc. Your list is not valid without inLighten. InLighten is a private company with over nearly 100 employees, offering the most extensive and complete digital signage solutions. While companies like Scala produce software, they rely on third parties for field sales and support. Do not provide turn-key content or specialized creative and content developement support. Cisco while a large company has very little direct digital signage product. Their solution is geared around selling customers on spending significant monies on replacing out of date network solutions as their digital sgnage product is not a narrowcasting solution and is not practical for most real-world installations without serious bandwidth improvements worth many times more than the digital signage solution. These two and some of the other companies are good companies. However, inLighten provides the complete solution from software, hardware, content, consulting, installtion and service. inLighten is not the cheapest provider, but they just may be the best. Get to know them.

  22. Jeff Hackett Says:

    This is a great list of the top 10 digital signage providers Adrian! I’m a Scala fan my self, and looking forward to my client’s deployment in the next couple weeks. I personally would have ranked them higher, but I can see this is an “international” ranking. Have you published a ranking exclusively for DSN providers in the United States?
    I’m a retail consultant for banks, shopping centers and restaurants in the northwest and personally recommend John Ryan / Screen Red, Scala, and once in awhile Symon. I find banks, especially over the last couple years, have surprisingly been investing greatly in DSNs. I’ve run across a lot of great providers using RFID technology (one was called New Grounds, and Rise Soft). With banks, I heavily promote John Ryan / Screen Red – their content management is so far advanced and more user-friendly than other systems I have come across. I came across the aforementioned inLighten several times, and a company called StrandVision, and swapped them out each time with Screen Red. Both legacy systems are over-priced, lack a user-friendly interface, and (!) have a very mediocre web-site (and that’s being nice – check out the aforementioned web-site). Furthermore, these, and various other DSN companies I have come across lack large scale deployment capabilities. One of my clients wanted to deploy to 56 branches and … I think it was inLighten… didn’t have the capability to do so. Screen Red and Scala are great deployers!!!
    I have a question – does anyone know of a good DSN provider for transportation (ie airports, bus terminals). I just locked down two new clients and I’m looking for a provider with great quantity of content?
    Jeff Hackett

  23. Brian Adams Says:

    Adrian, I have worked in the education and financial industry for more than 20 years and there is one name that by far is being used more than any other in these industries (in the US) for digital signage applications and its Inlighten. They offer web and desktop software and hardware, content, network management all in a turnkey package. Scala makes good, but complicated, software and is far from a full-service compnay. They rely on all thrid parties to for value add and service. Cisco’s product is very simple and baiscally is a loss leader to sell network upgrades. Their product is a bandwidth hog and not realy a narrowcasting solution. You need to check inLIghten out. I work across the country and would say that 8 out of 10 prospects that I visit in the fiancial industry have an ongoing relationship with inlighten. They do everything from video walls to music on hold. I have access to industry private messge boards and inlighten is on their 10 to 1 over anyone you’ve mentioned.

  24. UK. Says:

    What a load.
    Customers that are interested in Market share over what the solution actually gives them as a customer, only deserve all that this garbage delivers.
    Slate Scala at your peril, it’s closest in the list to reality.
    As for the solutions above it, get real, what do you want on your signage?
    Create a list.
    Ask yourself, is there “ANYTHING”, “ONE SINGLE THING, AT ALL” on that list that the PC you are viewing this on can’t do?
    NO,…… NOT AT ALL.
    So, put your ego down, drop these solution creeps & get a grip.
    Watch the market, coz a small UK solution is about to explode & blow this all aside.

  25. digital signage sofrware Says:

    Great post. Gives a great list of the top 10 digital signage software providers. Shame we’re not on the list.

  26. Dave Smith Says:

    Adrian, I’m affiliated with a top 25 banking institution in the U.S. and we have deployed over 200 Inlighten systems. This company is without a doubt the standard. We interface via the web to our DSN using an Inlighten interface. Inlighten also provides a live news cast to all of our locations and recently has replaced the outside Ad Agency for the creation of custom messaging. We are in the process of implementing inLighten’s internet kiosks in the sites and can use the same web based solution to control the systems. I’m familiar with the same companies you mentioned and none of them provided a true turn-key system like inLighten – almost all piece together third party product. Scala has ok software, but its complicated and support comes from local AV providers – not right for a larger scale networks. Inlighten has great support after the sale.

    Brian, I also have access to a number of industry message boards and you’re right inLighten is everywhere and almost all comments are positive.

  27. Dave Smith Says:

    Since I commented a few months ago, I’ve learned that inLighten signed an agreement for a 150 site roleout for a large US bank in PA. I don’t work with this bank but am aware they are one of the faster growing banks in the US. Also, I was told that they acquired a smaller US provider out of Chicago.. I think the name was Aida Visions. Don’t want to beat a horse, but thought everyone would want to know. I am in the process of installing Inlighten in a college for emergency messaging.

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