IFE has opportunity to act as ‘the perfect content aggregator’ as airlines are advised to step away from content volume towards passenger personalisation

For a long time, the onboard content offered to air travellers has been a key part of the flight selection process, alongside convenience, schedule, price. The success of the Gulf hub carriers in attracting passengers from established European and Asian airlines may have been achieved by attractive fares, but it has been reinforced by streams and streams of onboard content.

Using Emirates Airline as an example, customers can enjoy a staggering choice of over 4,000 channels of on-demand entertainment, with over 1,000 movies from around the world, hundreds of hours of TV including box-sets of popular shows and thousands of hours of music from contemporary to classical. They can even watch live sport!

But, passenger requirements are changing and as such airlines are now having to look differently at their offer. Just as we saw the move away from large centralised screens in the centre of the cabin to individual seat-back on-demand screens, we are now seeing a move to their complete removal with onboard content instead being streamed to personal devices via an app download.

Global entertainment and media agency Spafax has questioned what changes in the subscription video on demand (SVOD) service landscape could now mean for the world of in-flight entertainment (IFE)? We already have passengers accessing Netflix and Amazon Prime, but in the coming months Disney+ Apple TV+ will launch, followed by HBO Max and NBCUniversal in 2020. Grand View Research has said the global video streaming market size is anticipated to reach USD124.57 billion by 2025.

According to Andrea Whyte, director of commercial content strategy at Spafax, IFE has a good opportunity to “act as the perfect content aggregator”, combining the newest entertainment from SVOD services which passengers cannot access via their current subscriptions. She reported many major production studios “have been receptive to moving up access to early-window content on wireless IFE and maintaining an early window for seatback screens”.

“This is content that passengers can’t get on their own personal devices right now, a lot of these early-window movies aren’t on Netflix, they are not on Amazon, they are on the IFE system,” she explains.

The industry has certainly come a long way with wireless IFE streaming services over the past five years. And with improved technology and access to more content, Ms Whyte suggests that there is still room for airlines to offer a premium onboard experience for passengers – similarly on short- and long-haul flights.

Spafax’s research shows passengers are actually behaving on short haul flights “like they would at home or on the go” when it comes to streaming video on demand, according to Ms Whyte. She says that rather than using short-form content people are accessing SVOD service apps and are “selecting long form movies, or binging boxsets even when they’re commuting for shorter periods of time”.

The key to creating a great passenger experience on these systems, according to Ms Whyte, isn’t just about providing them with great content, but it is about making sure that passengers can find exactly what they want to watch as quickly and easily as possible.

“Airlines must optimise passenger experience by stepping away from huge GUIs that are only focused on providing volume. Passengers don’t want to necessarily search through 400 titles to find new movies and TV shows that they would want to watch,” she explains.

“What they want to be able to do is see a curated experience just for them – especially frequent flyers, who want to find something quickly so they can sit back and relax,” she adds.

Now to stop writing and head back to part seven of that box set!

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