US media giant Viacom - owner of the CBS TV network, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and many other desirable global properties - is about to compete for the first time since 1994 for the immensely lucrative London Underground advertising concession.

The ten year contract, which expires in November, reaps annual revenues north of £75 million ($139.9m; €108.8m) - almost twice those of the New York subway system - and is the world's largest transport advertising deal. Prior to 1994 it was handled inhouse.

US national Bob Kiley, who runs London's transport system, reports directly to Mayor Livingstone, known affectionately to Londoners (but less so to the Blair administration) as 'Red Ken'. The duo describe their unlikely but successful working relationship as "a CIA activist working for an unreconstructed Trotskyite".

Viacom will defend its lucrative fiefdom against a number of contenders, among them compatriot rival Clear Channel Communications, French outdoor and ambient advertising titan J C Decaux and independent UK contractor Maiden Group in a canny alliance with New York-based Titan Outdoor.

Maiden sees advantage in joining forces with Titan chairman William M Apfelbaum, who as boss of TDI in 1994 won the present contract before selling his business three years later to Infinity Broadcasting, itself swalowed by Viacom in 1999.

Evangelizes Apfelbaum: "This next contract will change the way people advertise. We are talking about cross-track projection, big video screens in the station booking halls and videos in the carriages."

Data sourced from London Evening Standard; additional content by WARC staff