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Changing times: Toshiba's New York billboard goes dark

Sign served as backdrop for New Year's Eve festivities for a decade

Workers have begun taking down the Toshiba billboard, a Times Square landmark since 2007.

NEW YORK -- Toshiba has pulled the plug on its long-running electronic billboard in the heart of New York's Times Square, abandoning the pricey advertising space as part of drastic cost cuts.

A crew began Monday removing the uppermost sign on One Times Square, the building best known for the ball drop watched by millions worldwide on New Year's Eve. Toshiba's light-emitting diode display had hung there since December 2007, flashing the company's logo and displaying the annual countdown.

The electronics group signed a 10-year lease on the location in December 2007. At that time, the cost of such advertising space was estimated at $275,000 to $400,000 a month -- a figure that has only grown since.

Toshiba can no longer afford this luxury. Massive losses at Westinghouse Electric, the company's bankrupt former American nuclear power unit, plunged the company into financial crisis last year. Toshiba announced last November that it would end its contract for the Times Square perch. The company sold its Westinghouse stake in April.

In another sign of change, Toshiba in March withdrew as lead sponsor of Japan's long-running family cartoon "Sazae-san," which had broadcast the company's name into living rooms nationwide since 1969. Its successors include Amazon.com.

Toshiba's cuts to advertising reflect a broader shift in its business model. The onetime consumer electronics heavyweight is scaling down retail operations and refocusing on products and services for business clients, such as energy systems and infrastructure.

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