A billboard ad from CBS touting its value to Los Angeles. (CBS )
The long-running fight between CBS and outdoor billboard company Titan for the right to sell advertising on Los Angeles County buses and trains should finally be decided this week.
On Thursday, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Agency's board of directors scheduled a vote to decide between the two companies for a new five-year contract starting in 2013. CBS has bid $110 million for the contract while Titan offered $117 million.
Although Titan's bid is higher, the staff of the Los Angeles MTA has twice backed CBS, which has held the contract for more than 30 years. Keeping the contract is a big priority for CBS, which blanketed the region with billboards touting how many Angelenos the company employs and the billions it pumps into the city's economy.
One of the reasons the MTA staff backed CBS was that privately held Titan went through a period of financial uncertainty that saw the company lose its billboard contract with New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority and renegotiate several other deals it had in major cities including Boston and San Francisco.
CBS has argued that Titan has a history of overbidding on contracts and then going back to cut a better deal. "Their record is spotty," CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said of Titan earlier this fall.
Titan Chief Executive Don Allman said that period was "a difficult time for everyone" and that the company is now on solid financial footing. "Since the restructuring in 2010, we have won or renewed 16 contracts ... Titan is stronger than ever," he added. The staff of the Los Angeles MTA "didn't do their due diligence."
CBS general counsel Louis Briskman countered that the MTA staff "made absolutely the correct evaluation" and added that if the board decides on merit, "we're a hands-down winner."
A potential strike against Titan with the MTA may be that it recently fell short in an effort to win an advertising contract for the Tom Bradley Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. In its decision two months ago to reject Titan's bid, evaluators for Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) questioned the company's financial wherewithal. That contract has yet to be awarded. CBS is not a bidder.
Allman noted that Titan recently landed the contract for Orange County's John Wayne airport and said LAWA "was very narrow in their focus" and "missed an opportunity to add another competitor that would have helped their process."
CBS has dropped not so subtle hints that if it were to lose the contract to Titan, the company would have to reconsider its business relationship with the city. In September, Moonves said it would be "wrong" to give the contract to Titan unless the MTA wants to "urge a company like us to leave and to do production out of state."
CBS and Titan in fight for LA MTA ad contract
MTA staff reiterates backing of CBS for advertising contract
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.