Now that in-flight WiFi has moved beyond the market and tech test phases and into widespread deployment, expect media brands to vie for placement on the portals that give that irritating guy in the middle seat of Aisle 21 yet another way to distract you. Row 44, which provides in-flight broadband entertainment content to Southwest Airlines and other worldwide carriers has announced a series of media partnerships that pipe live TV into the aisle seat. CNBC, MSNBC, Versus (NBC sports network), Fox News Networks, BBC World News and Bloomberg Television have partnered with the company. A new live IPTV will be available via the in-cabin WiFi connection to smartphones, laptops and tablets. Now instead of suffering through those insipid sitcoms on the overhead LCDs, you can choose your own TV experience from a connected device. Better still, Row 44 is packaging this as a free service aimed at those of you who think $13 for four hours of Internet access is crazy high.
Row 44 is building an in-flight entertainment platform and is in the process of assembling ever more pieces of familiar addictive live fare. In late August the company announced a partnership with MLB AdvancedMedia to deliver streaming audio and video from over 2,400 baseball games annually.
Row 44 offers the platform to airline as a white label service, and it pitches it as an ad-supported platform that can extract revenue from the fliers who choose not to pay for WiFi access to the Internet. Each of the services can be made available on a portal menu and all the parties share in any attached ad revenue.Of course how and whether the in-flight bandwidth can handle multiple streams of IPTV when it is offered free is another matter. I don't know about you but when accessing free WiFi on flights or even AmTrak I find it a challenge to get CNN to load let alone a tablet-filling screen of CNBC live reports from the stock exchange floor.