A battle has broken out for Hong Kong's lucrative public-transport advertising market, with infotainment service provider Mobile Media taking on the MTR Corp and newly listed RoadShow Holdings. Mobile Media, controlled by Star East Holdings, launched a large-scale expansion last week in alliances with New World First Bus (NWFB) and struggling Internet retailer Dickson Cyber Concepts. The alliances are targeting the transport advertising market dominated by the MTRC and RoadShow, the multi-media advertising sales arm of Kowloon Motor Bus Holdings (KMB). Mobile Media and RoadShow primarily sell advertising space and provide entertainment and information, or infotainment, through LCD screens on vehicles. Welcoming rising competition, Roadshow director Winnie Ng said: 'When newcomers come in the market, it means the business is viable and lucrative.' Advertising spending in the SAR has been growing, having risen 16 per cent to HK$27.52 billion last year, according to research firm AC Nielsen. It hit HK$14.12 billion in the first half of this year, of which 46 per cent went to television, 34 per cent to newspapers and the rest to magazines, radio and the MTR. The growth rate of outdoor media ad spending was even stronger, at 46 per cent last year to HK$956 million. It stood at HK$473 million for the first half, with MTRC accounting for 62 per cent and KMB 19 per cent. NWFB and the airport each had 7 per cent of the market and Kowloon-Canton Railway Corp had the rest. Competition is set to intensify as ad spending is expected to shrink in the second half of this year with Hong Kong's sharp economic slowdown. 'That is why RoadShow has a niche in terms of its reach to audience when advertisers tighten their belts,' Ms Ng said. Since the end of last year, RoadShow's services have been carried on 2,100 KMB and Citybus buses around the New Territories, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island, or two million passenger journeys daily. Ms Ng said RoadShow would focus on transport-related media, including an imminent deal with an out-bound ferry firm. She said localised programmes would be available on-board soon. RoadShow's expansion plan was funded by a HK$588.8 million flotation in June. Mobile Media wants to have LCD screens installed in 730 NWFB vehicles and 1,400 public light buses by January next year. By next month, it wants to have light-emitting diode panels and plasmas installed in shopping malls, including New World Centre and Dickson CyberExpress, 25 Town Health clinics and the 120-strong Circle K convenience stores. Mobile Media offers instant information on weather, traffic and news and lower-cost content featuring Star East's artists. However, the company faces challenges. The 70,000 square foot Dickson CyberExpress has recorded thin traffic, a key factor of its HK$60.9 million loss last year. There was also an ill-fated attempt to offer similar services at Circle K two years ago. Circle K chief executive Richard Yeung Lap-bun said advanced technologies made the upcoming services viable. 'It did not work last time because costs were not justified,' he said. 'This time, we will make use of the Internet to deliver faster and better contents but at a much cheaper cost.' Mobile Media and RoadShow ruled out competing by cutting ad rates. And they face a common enemy - a growing outcry from passengers who complain the services are unwanted and noisy.