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To airlines seeking to attract more passengers and elicit ancillary revenue, giving passengers wide choice in in-flight entertainment, whether it is on seatbacks or through passengers using their own personal electronic devices, is serious business.

Passengers laughing at what they view on seatback screens is nothing new in the airline industry, and Spafax research shows comedy is still the most watched genre.

To airlines seeking to please passengers and attract ancillary revenue, comedy is therefore serious business.

The findings of Spafax, which supplies in-flight entertainment to 30 airlines in 20 countries, including British Airways and Lufthansa, point to passengers on long flights seeking people to relax and laugh, and there is less emphasis on watching thriller or horror films, although some airlines still offer those genres.

“Comedy is still king,” said Al St. Germain, vice president of Spafax USA. “Hollywood’s new releases are the core of our offer, but offering these new releases really depends on the brand of the airline.”

He said international movies are getting more popular, with a particular demand for Chinese content from clients such as Asiana Airlines. On the TV front, passengers want to keep up with shows they watch on streaming services at home.

“Across all cabin classes, there’s a lot more demand for box set shows and non-traditional broadcast content like shows not on mainstream television,” he said.

For U.S.-based airlines, Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE), which provides in-flight entertainment to more than 130 airlines worldwide, found that Indian movies are the most watched international films.

Hollywood new releases are most popular on routes to countries where movies are released in cinemas later than in the U.S., said GEE spokeswoman Melissa Pauleat.

She says movie content typically represents 65% to 70% of time spent using in-flight entertainment systems.

“There’s little variation in overall entertainment preferences in business and economy cabins, and the trends we found are similar for airlines equipped with seatback and Wi-Fi in-flight entertainment systems,”Pauleat said.

The data also show the Disney, Discovery and CNBC channels are among the most popular, along with half hour recent comedies being the most watched shows in all cabins.

Other stats show branded casual games from PopCap, EA and Disney are the most played, with classic games such as Solitaire, Poker, Blackjack and Sudoku a close second.

With JetBlue, keeping tabs on what is most popular isn’t as important as giving passengers choices. The airline offers free Wi-Fi and seatback entertainment, and finds that sports networks are on many passengers’ screens.

“Given the nature of content we have, most customers can watch what they want,” said Jamie Perry, director of product development for Jetblue. “Offering live content is hugely popular, particularly with our sports channels. Customers loved watching the World Cup live on our flights. We’re all about choices.”

This week Delta Air Lines unveiled Delta Studio, which provides free entertainment to passengers on more than 1,000 aircraft.

“We’re continuing to add seatback entertainment to our new aircraft so its an increasing trend with Delta,” said Paul Skrbec, a Delta spokesman. “But Delta Studio also gives customers more entertainment choices than ever to watch on their devices.”

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Tags: delta air lines, jetblue airways

Photo credit: Passengers on Virgin America. Davity Dave / Flickr

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