A motorist in Miami turns her attention to the TV screen as she fills her vehicle.
Alan Diaz / AP Enlarge
MIAMI - U.S. drivers have a diversion from high fuel prices: TV at the gas station.
The number of televisions atop gas pumps has skyrocketed since their introduction at a handful of stations in 2006.
Three privately held companies have placed more than 20,000 screens at thousands of stations from the Massachusetts Pike to southern California.
"We try to bring some fun to the pump," said Roy Reeves, vice president of sales and marketing for PumpTop TV, which provides screens and content at nearly 600 stations nationwide.
The TVs are also bringing in added revenue for gas retailers, whose margins have shrunk because of an increase in transport costs and credit-card fees.
Gas Station TV said that in tracking its retailers' sales, stores with screens on pumps report selling 75 percent more car washes and 69 percent more snacks if those items are advertised. The other two companies report similar results.
"I actually have several customers a day saying, 'Hey, I saw your ad on TV as I was pumping gas,'•" said David Yegenian, who has eight screens at his Tustin, Calif., station.
Programming varies. PumpTop TV provides traffic updates, local sports scores, headlines, and weather. FuelCast carries trivia and NBC content. Gas Station TV, of Detroit, broadcasts CBS programming.
All offer heavy rotations of 15-second ads - oil companies are staple advertisers - and all say they will place screens in new markets this summer. None has released revenue figures, but all say they are growing.
These companies pay gas station owners for placing the screens above the pumps, and the retailers can advertise specials or products inside the convenience store.
Once the pump starts, the TV comes on - and stays on. The channel can't be changed nor the volume muted.
Anna DaSilva, a 59-year-old retiree from Doral, Fla., said she had never seen the screens at gas stations until this month, when she fueled up at a Shell station near her home.
She said she liked the idea not because of the ads but because it distracted her from the high gas prices.