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6 Things We Learn From The World’s Most Famous Digital Billboard

Digital billboards play an important role in this new age of digital advertising. These outdoor LED screens are commonly used by media companies to provide accessible and lucrative advertising opportunities.

What is even better is that the digital billboards can also help to beautify, promote and brighten up streets, buildings and cities. A unique digital billboard can become a landmark or a recognizable attraction. For example, the Piccadilly Circus’ 4K billboard in London has been livening up the nearby shopping streets since 2017.

Outdoor LED Billboard

Digital billboard at Piccadilly Circus in London.

However, if we are going to pick the world’s most famous digital billboard, our answer will always be the One Times Square in New York. Located in the heart of one of the world’s most crowded commercial intersections, the building is the home to the well-known “The 1” and “The Countdown”.

In this article, we will share the 6 most interesting things that we learn from the world’s most famous digital billboard.

The One and The Countdown Billboards

1. Huge and unobstructed advertising spaces.

One Times Square is one of the most unique buildings in New York. With a height of only 363 feet, the building is so short when compared to other skyscrapers in the neighbourhood. What makes the building stands out is that it stands next to no one. It is one of the very few stand-alone buildings in the area that comes with four viewable sides or facades.

Furthermore, its north-facing side can provide a clear sightline where everyone within the Times Square’s “bowtie” area can view it without any obstruction.

Previously, there were a total of six billboards sitting on the north-facing façade. Years ago, these traditional billboards were replaced by digital displays that can provide a better viewing experience. In 2019, the ad space is revamped again. It is transformed into a single large digital canvas using the Samsung high-end LED display with a display size of 11,639 square feet.

Before 2019, each screen on the façade was used to display its unique content. Today, although the new 350 feet tall display is still made up of five separate screens, all screens can be combined to display one large image or video content.

Samsung showed the best example by working together with d’strict, a world-class design company, to unveil the Waterfall-NYC art installation in 2021. A huge waterfall is seen cascading across all separate screens, from the top to the bottom of the display.

Comparison of Digital Billboard in 2018 and 2019

2. One Times Square is owned by Jamestown L.P.

Being one of the most recognized buildings in the world, the 26-story One Times Square is an important asset to its owner, Jamestown L.P.

Jamestown L.P. is a real estate management and investment company. It owns some of the most valuable properties in the United States, South America, and Europe.

One Times Square’s advertising spaces are favourites to many local and global businesses. The building is definitely a gold-laying goose, and it is still generating millions of dollars for the real estate company.

Many know that Jamestown L.P. is the main driving force behind the success story of One Times Square. However, the building went through a lot before becoming what it is today. It has a long history of ownership.

Located at the intersection where Broadway and 42nd Street meet, One Times Square is also known as the Times Tower because it was originally built in 1904 by The New York Times. Although the famous news publisher was no longer using the tower as its headquarters since 1913, Times still retained the tower’s ownership until 1961 when the tower was sold to Douglas Leigh.

Since 1961, the tower had been changing hands frequently. Some of the previous owners include Allied Chemical, Alex Parker, Kemekod Group, and Lawrence I. Linksman.

In 1995, the building was sold to a well-known investment firm in New York, Lehman Brothers. The firm made a bold decision not to renovate the interior parts of the building as it was not cost-effective. Instead, the firm decided to mount multiple billboard signs on the tower’s exterior. Since then, the building has been providing ad spaces to various businesses.

Thanks to the best move made by Lehman Brothers, the building was sold again to Jamestown L.P. for a huge amount of about $110 million.

1904 Times Square

One Times Square in 1904.

3. The digital billboards are operated by New Tradition Media.

Established in 2010, the young media company New Tradition Media has successfully signed a master lease agreement for the digital billboards at One Times Square in 2019. Holding an exclusive licensing right to the world’s most valuable digital display, New Tradition has been seeking and dealing with some of the world’s biggest brand names in running ad campaigns at One Times Square.

Securing the leasing of the digital displays at One Times Square is never enough for a young and passionate company. Since then, the out-of-home media company has been working hard to acquire more advertising displays in the United States.

Today, in addition to its most prominent asset in New York, the company also owns digital displays and provides out-of-home services in various regions such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Atlanta, Chicago, and many more. 

New York Digital Billboard

4. It is an almost vacant building.

From the outside, the tower is flashing gorgeously with all the colourful digital content on its digital billboard. On the ground, thousands of pedestrians walk past the tower every day. It is a lively building sitting right in the middle of one of the busiest commercial areas in the world.

However, do you know there are only few tenants in the tower today?

In 2020, there are only the New Year’s Eve office on the 22nd floor and a Walgreens store on the ground floor. But why the building is empty despite the crowded area?

The tower was built in 1904 on a land lot that covers only an area of 500m2. With only 26 floors, the total floor area is about 10,275m2. The office space offered is relatively small when compared to other modern buildings in the area.

Besides, it is an old building that does not undergo any renovation or major maintenance since it was sold to Lehman Brothers and then Jamestown L.P. The reason is very simple. The building can sell more ad spaces than the office floor spaces.

However, the building’s state could make a big turnaround in few years. Jamestown L.P. has decided to invest $500 million into the redevelopment of the building. All advertisements have been removed except the north-facing digital displays. The owner plans to build a museum, a retail place, and a viewing deck.

Programmatic DOOH for Digital Billboard

5. The Ball-drop and The New Year Celebration.

One Times Square is more than a proud icon in New York. Decades before the tower is equipped with a great number of billboards and digital displays, the tower is already a well-known go-to attraction due to its annual New Year celebration.

On December 31, 1904, the first owner of the tower Times decided to promote the headquarters of The New York Times by organizing a New Year celebration with a firework display. The event was a great success, and the annual event was held again for the next three years.

In 1907, the firework display was banned by the city council and Times had to find another way to surprise the crowd at its well-received annual event. A lit wood and iron sphere was prepared on the top of the tower’s flagpole. When the clock hit 11.59 p.m., the sphere was lowered down and rested when the new year started.

Since then, the tradition continues, and the ball’s design has been modified over the years. Times Square’s New Year celebration is one of the most visited annual events in the world. Every year, Times Square welcomes over 1 million people to celebrate the New Year. The Ball-drop event is also broadcasted to various online and TV networks globally.

Hence, due to its huge exposure, no one can argue that the One Times Square is indeed the world’s most famous and valuable digital billboard.

New Year's Ball Drop

6. Favoured by big companies.

Thanks to the tower’s prime location and the ball-drop tradition, its digital displays can reach over 350,000 pedestrians and visitors every day according to Times Square. On New Year’s Eve, the displays can even reach millions of spectators and TV viewers all around the globe.

A huge number of reaches means greater business opportunities for advertisers. For years, companies with big brand names love to share their messages and stories on the ad spots provided by the tower. Advertisers from various industries have set their footsteps and found impressive returns displaying on the world’s most valuable digital billboard. Some of the advertisers are Hulu, Kia, Spotify, Sony, Paramount, and Coca-Cola.

Kia Advertisement in New York
Billboard Ads at One Times Square


After we learn more about One Times Square, the conclusion that we can draw is digital out-of-home advertising platforms such as outdoor signages and digital billboards are some of the most effective tools in increasing the campaign reach. When you have the right traffic, the right location, and the right content, the digital billboard will do its work well in attracting and engaging your target audience.

It is the era of digital advertising. We truly believe that businesses and advertisers should explore and utilize such opportunities to expand their reach.


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