Alight Media, an out-of-home start-up led by former Clear Channel boss Matthew Dearden, has struck two deals, winning a transport contract for South Yorkshire and buying about 40 sites that used to be run by collapsed media owner 8 Outdoor.
A significant proportion of former 8 Outdoor staff – thought to be about 30 people – are set to join Alight Media.
Dearden, the chief executive, who launched Alight Media with co-founder Dave Huckerby last year, said the twin deals were "a great fit" and will help "our ambition to constructively challenge the status quo in UK out of home media".
He believes there is a gap in the market for a new player that can offer reach to advertisers beyond the UK’s "top five or 10 urban conurbations" at a time when the big four OOH media owners, notably Global, have been consolidating.
Alight Media already manages some national ad sales for six-sheet sites in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset and has won a contract to install digital six-sheets in Bournemouth.
"We’re adding scale in key locations, bringing fantastic people and capabilities on-board and with the right financial backers in place, this move lays the foundations for significant further growth," he said.
The new investment is believed to be worth seven figures but Dearden would not comment and declined to identify any backers who are "private individuals and family offices".
The South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive contract includes nearly 900 six-sheet sites across Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley.
Dearden said he sees two opportunities because there are relatively few sites in the region compared to South Yorkshire’s 1.4m population and size and none of the sites has digital screens yet.
"Winning a contract of this size underlines our belief that the market is ready for a new player," Dearden said.
Alight Media is also picking up the remaining assets that used to be managed by 8 Outdoor after striking a deal with administrators.
The sites, which are in the North East and West, the Midlands, Greater London and Scotland, are thought to be chiefly large-format roadside digital screens.
8 Outdoor collapsed earlier this month after it lost about two-thirds of inventory when a key landlord, Insite, terminated its licence earlier this month and moved the sites to Global.
Dearden said 8 Outdoor’s underlying strategy to drive digital expansion and nation reach "was always right" despite its financial troubles.
He spent seven years at Clear Channel until the end of 2016, rising to be president of its European operation, and was previously a marketer at BT. Huckerby is also a former Clear Channel executive.
Alight Media has an existing team of about half a dozen people, including Ged Glover, formerly of the Advertising Association, who is chief revenue officer.