Times Square During Coronavirus (Photo Credit: Joshua Bright NY Times)


Although there are far fewer people to see them, the digital billboards in Times Square will stay on.

Despite complaints that the displays were wasting electricity to show ads to nearly empty streets, the Times Square Advertising Coalition said in an email that there was “no plan on darkening the signs,” adding that “the bright lights of Broadway reflect the vibrancy of N.Y.C. that continues on even during our darkest days.”

The billboard space is often sold as annual contracts, said Cristyne Nicholas, a spokeswoman for the group, adding that many of the displays had energy-efficient LED technology. Many of the signs feature public service announcements related to the coronavirus pandemic, and those billboards are seen by the tens of thousands of pedestrians that she said were still passing through the area.

Before the outbreak, billboards and other outdoor ads were one of the most promising sectors of advertising, described as “unblockable promotions” by Alexis Ohanian, a Reddit co-founder and a billboard investor. But as people hunker indoors, less attention is being paid to taxi-top ads, advertising murals and other so-called out-of-home displays, causing companies like Clear Channel Outdoor and Outfront Media to cut costs and tap credit.