Largest billboard owners

Has anyone ever seen a market study outlining who the largest existing owners of billboards are? The OAAA obviously has some good data on the size of the outdoor market with respect to CCO, Lamar, CBSO, Van Wagner etc. but had not seen any data outlining who the largest actual owners of the billboards themselves were. Many thanks!

The largest owner of billboards in the U.S. is subject to a lot of definition problems – what constitutes a “billboard”? If you include the highway “logo” sign program throughout the U.S., that gives a big advantage to Lamar. If you include all outdoor media, such as transit, and count each ad on a taxicab as a billboard, then that also changes the playing field. Without definition issues, nobody would dispute that the largest outdoor owner in the U.S. is either Lamar, Clear Channel or CBS. But which of the three? That’s maybe impossible to choose without a tighter group of criteria. For example, do you count a tiny 8-sheet the same as a 14’x 48’ bulletin? Do you count an LED with 8 customers as 1 billboard or 8? Or do you count based on revenue? I’m not sure NASA could give you the accurate answer, but at least I’ve narrowed it to three.

My apologies - far from sanguine on the space and I think I asked the question poorly. Certainly understand that definitions involve a lot of gray area when referring to “outdoor” or even just “billboards” in the broadest sense. My question was more with respect to whether there were large RE companies or lessors that owned the actual real estate or billboards with which outdoor companies (LAMR, CCO, or “smaller” guys like Fairway, Reagan, TriState etc) sell their ad space? For example, Lamar leases about 84,000 “active outdoor sites” representing roughly ~19% of their total revenue ($221m in annual lease expense from their most recent 10k) and I was wondering who the largest players were that actually owned the RE but in turn let Lamar sell the ad space in return for a lease payment (or a slice of the ad revenues I’d assume would be another way to do it). Was just wondering if there were larger, more RE only focused players that maybe people were familiar with on this Board that didn’t view selling advertising as part of their core competency and so were happy to just own the land or board. Many thanks

O.K., now I understand your question. The answer is that the only significant owners of billboard site properties are the railroads. Companies such as Southern Pacific (whatever they are called now) own thousands of sites along their right-of-way. Outside of railroads, I don’t know of any large owners. There are some individuals who may have a collection of 10 or 20 locations, such as large shopping center owners, but that is hardly a significant piece of the market.

They’re nothing compared to the railroads, but I think that the self storage companies own a lot of billboard “sites”. When I used to work for one of the major BB companies, the self storage companies would send us lists of their locations to see if any were feasible for new billboard sites. Self storage facilities are usually located in commercial districts in very visible highway locations. They aren’t that picky on having any kind of “upscale” appearence and often welcome any extra income.

You would think that the real estate investment trusts or major, publicly traded office/retail/industrial developers would be major billboard site owners, but when I was in site leasing, I found that most of them were not billboard friendly and did not want them on their properties, considering them eyesores, especially if their building was new. Whenever a property changed hands to one of these big companies, they always fought with us to take the billboard structure down. Didn’t matter how much more $$ we offered in lease payments, they wanted it gone.

George is right. There are many mini-storage owners who have billboards on their properties. They may even be the second largest subset behind railroads. But I don’t think that even the largest ones, like Public Storage, would have more than a couple hundred. I think that all the owners that have more than 10 combined would be less than just one large railroad outfit.

He is also correct about REITs and the like. They are way too proud of their properties (often for no reason) and are more often net “removers” than “adders” of signs. I have never seen one that is a significant billboard lessor – mainly because they hate outdoor and won’t allow them to be built. I once did a study for a large shopping center developer of the 50 sites they had. Out of 50 sites, about 20 were legal for outdoor. Of those 20, none were acceptable due to their aesthetic concerns.