It was the most popular not just because it was an amazing game, but in-flight streaming TV is more advanced than it has ever been.
Germany’s 1-0 victory over Argentina in last night’s soccer World Cup final was watched in real-time by 40,000 airline passengers, a record for a live in-flight television broadcast.
Football fans on almost 200 jets operated by nine carriers including Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Turkish Airlines and Emirates were able to view the tournament’s climax, according to Panasonic Corp., the only global provider of live in-flight TV.
Panasonic Avionics has bet on sports coverage to lure airline passengers to live television in an age when people are increasingly watching delayed screenings via on-demand technology. Through the duration of the World Cup around 1.5 million people watched games in-flight on the company’s systems.
“Right now we are still in the ‘convincing’ mode for TV, and the World Cup has really helped to show people that this works,” David Bruner, Panasonic’s vice president for global communications, said in an interview at the Farnborough Air Show, adding that the tournament has helped push in-flight TV toward a tipping point where the service will become universal.
Of 470 planes currently fitted with Panasonic’s broadband technology, some 185 are able to receive what Bruner says is at the moment a “pretty expensive” live television option. The company has orders in hand to equip 2,000 planes, of which about half should be activated for in-flight TV, he said.
Lufthansa is the biggest customer for the service, which is available on all of its long-haul planes, allowing German soccer fans to track their country’s victorious progress through the entire competition. Panasonic reckons about 50 percent of passengers tune in to the service, though this rose to three- quarters for the World Cup and far higher for many games.
Turkish Airlines, formally known as Turk Hava Yollari AO, was the first live TV customer in 2012, and has also commissioned coverage of specific soccer matches from Turkey’s national league, Bruner said.
Panasonic and provider IMG Worldwide Inc. otherwise choose which games to screen on a dedicated sports channel that has also featured live tennis, golf, Formula 1 motor racing and Olympic Games coverage. Of seven other live channels, six feature rolling news and the other carries business news.
British Airways is trialling the service on a single Boeing Co. 747-400 plane, with other users including Singapore Airlines Ltd., Etihad Airways PJSC and PT Garuda Indonesia.
Programs are usually made available for free by carriers to all passengers aboard, though Panasonic is in talks with two regional airlines in North America and Europe which plan to offer a pay-per-view deal on their shorter flights, Bruner said.
The only other live in-flight TV is available on trans-continental flights within the U.S. and Brazil, he said.
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