When roughly 100 of the city’s 13,000 cab drivers gathered at a public forum in Manhattan recently, some took the opportunity to complain about the incessant chatter of taxi TV blaring from their back seats.
And perhaps with good reason. A Marist poll conducted for The Wall Street Journal and released on Monday found that just 29% of New York City taxi riders turn off the television sets in cabs.
The Marist results, which were culled from roughly 400 telephone interviews with taxi riders ages 18 and over, stood in slight contrast with those by Creative Mobile Technologies, the largest taxicab television system in the city; that company’s internal numbers show that their screens remain on more than 85% of the time when passengers are riding. (Unlike CMT’s data, Marist’s did not include information culled from tourists).
Although most New Yorkers appear to leave the TVs on, the Marist poll shows that they don’t tend to notice them, with 40% of survey respondents saying they ignore the programming. Among the demographic groups measured, the most likely to ride oblivious to TV include men, African-Americans, riders 45 and older, people without college degrees and New Yorkers who make less than $50,000 a year. (Lest you think that affluent, educated riders are glued to the latest episode of Reel Talk, note that those groups are actually more likely to hit the off button.)
More than 50% of Bronx cab riders say they just ignore the likes of Liz Cho and Cat Greenleaf, compared to 45% of Brooklyn residents and roughly a third of survey respondents in Queens and Staten Island.
CMT said it only charges advertisers when a program on their channel – the Taxi Entertainment Network – airs from start to finish. The company shares the advertising revenue with fleet owners, who are not charged for the TV systems.
“We want people getting into a cab to sit back and relax,” said Jesse Davis, the president of CMT. A taxi, he added, “is your quiet space, your little oasis.”
Manhattan taxi riders tend to agree, which may be why 42% say they just turn off the TVs when they hop in a cab, the highest percentage of any borough.
Forty-five percent of riders in the survey deemed taxi television “annoying,” compared to 37% who found it “entertaining.” (Just under 20% said they were unsure.) Those more likely to respond “annoying” included men, people 45 or older, whites, college graduates, people making less than $50,000 a year and — no surprise — residents of Manhattan.
Also in that group: some of your taxi drivers. The city’s two main taxi driver groups said they have never conducted formal surveys on how their drivers feel about the televisions. But one of them, New York Taxi Workers Alliance, has complained that the programming is repetitive.
CMT said its news programs update twice a day during the week and once daily on weekends. Other types of programming, such as movie reviews, update weekly.
The taxi workers alliance also complained that its drivers do not share in advertising revenues and that some of the televisions turn on when there are no passengers in the cars. ”Drivers will have to pull over and turn it off,” said Bhairavi Desai, the group’s executive director.