Following a growing trend to improve the variety of in-flight entertainment offerings available in-flight, Global Eagle Entertainment (GEE) is expanding its portfolio of services adding content, games, and opportunities for creative advertising platforms.

Los Angeles-based GEE, which provides in-flight entertainment (IFE) content and in-flight connectivity (IFC) (read Wi-Fi) to over 150 airlines around the world and close to home—including Southwest Airlines—has announced the acquisition of Mumbai-based Western Outdoor Entertainment (WOI) with 30 years of experience in apps, games and infotainment. It has also acquired certain assets of RMG Networks which will bolster GEE’s inflight advertising and sponsorship platforms.

Airlines are trying to enhance the passenger experience using cabin features that don’t steal limited onboard square footage, and which passengers enjoy, such as better IFE and Wi-Fi. But the hardware and technology which keep us entertained at 30,000 ft are expensive. So is the content.

Passengers Hunger for Fresh Content

Airlines negotiate purchase agreements for early window movies with studios directly or through content providers, like GEE, but ensuring passengers have enough entertainment content to enjoy onboard in a Netflix binge-watching world. Finding enough fresh content to appeal to passengers over many hours of flight, especially as passengers fly more often, only adds to the IFE cost burden for airlines which cannot be recovered based on ticket prices alone.

By getting creative with their content platforms, including custom games, infotainment, onboard shopping, and branded content, airlines can give passengers more to enjoy inflight while raising the necessary revenues to pay for those flash IFE screens and high-speed Wi-Fi antennas.

As GEE’s Vice President of Marketing and Global Business Development, Robin Cole explains, these new acquisitions will help the company expand the options available to distract us in-flight and keep up with the costs of latest entertainment options.

“The ways in which airlines, advertisers and GEE can capitalize on this acquisition are immense,” Cole says. “With this acquisition we add a ground based, airport specific ad network to the ad serving capabilities we have, creating a full service airline advertising solution. Between this full featured platform and the capabilities GEE has for inflight including target advertising based on device, OS, origin and destination, we believe this is the basis for a very full featured, rich and dynamic ad platform solution for IFE.”

Making the Case for IFE/IFC Upgrades

The company expects that airlines will welcome these new opportunities to diversify and monetize their content offerings, building new business cases for system upgrades.

GEE may have a point. At this year’s SITA Air Transport Information Technology Summit in Brussels, the technology leaders of two large airlines, which have long held out on adding any inflight entertainment, Ryanair and easyJet, said their airlines had not adopted these systems because the equipment was too expensive to justify.

They also said they would consider adoption if they could find an adequate business model which would help them recoup their investments. They are not alone. Many airlines around the world have invested in IFE only on select routes, others have gone without it all together, and a very few, outside of the U.S. have installed onboard Wi-Fi.

Among the players, competition today is focused on tempting airlines to adopt their new hardware and services. Business cases range from passenger satisfaction, to improved operations. Most offer a combination of these and all are finding more ways to make their arguments compelling. Capital from content is a compelling argument.

From the Ground Up

GEE believes the benefits of creative content solutions aren’t limited to airlines.

“We intend to increase both domestic and international advertising with this acquisition including airline lounge and airports,” says Cole. “The net result of this acquisition is that GEE has aircraft specific ad serving capabilities, which we have had for some time, as well as lounge, airport, that is ground based advertising capabilities, which means we can provide targeted, curated, and location based advertising to passengers.”

The Right Mix

As these strategies evolve, the main focus of the industry is to ensure that as brands enter the airspace they do so in a manner which will appeal to both passengers and brands—which will seek measurable returns on their media investments. In the long term, that will be the proof of concept.

Dave Davis, CEO of GEE is confident that content strategy which includes healthy mix of gaming, information sharing, and targeted advertising will succeed, and expresses excitement over the company’s now expanded Digital Media portfolio.

“Digital media, coupled with inflight advertising and sponsorship, provides a burgeoning offering that will provide expanded opportunities to meet the rapidly evolving trends in the industry,” he says.

Photo Credit: From embedded seat back in-flight entertainment screens to our own devices, airlines and airports will want to keep us entertained with creative brand collaborations. GEE