castLabs for IFE: Bringing IFE On Budget

Read all three of our ‘castLabs on IFE’ blogs by following the links to the right or click below for more on:

castLabs’ Onboard Entertainment

In-flight entertainment (IFE) has been a long established value add for premium air travel, with expensive in-seat screens giving passengers a refined section of films and television shows to pass the flight time.

But with airlines aggressively competing for passengers, particularly due to the rise of ‘no frills’ carriers, there’s increased pressure to cut costs and deliver greater profit margins. Are the complexities of delivering IFE a luxury airlines could do without? Could new delivery models, leveraging passenger’s own handheld devices, be the new standard for IFE?

New Low Cost Delivery Models

Coinciding with the boom of tablets and smart devices, enabling customers to watch their own video content onboard, some traditional carriers have taken to the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) model and stripped heavy, expensive IFE systems from their short-haul and medium-haul services. American Airlines is among recent carriers to make this change.

For long-haul services, where in-seat IFE is built into most widebody planes as standard, there has been little appetite to make a change. Seen as a necessary comfort for cramped passengers, long-haul carriers must also reckon with connectivity speed within the cabin, advertiser demand for in-seat screen advertising, and the cost of ‘rip and replace’.

stamp on cash

Recent security policy decisions by the United States and UK to outlaw tablets and laptops in carry-on luggage for flights to the Middle East have also made carriers pause for thought with BYOD adoption.

BYOD, Here To Stay?

Many of the concerns above related to the BYOD model have been alleviated or exist only in the short term. The adoption of Ka band satcom technology is adding new capacity for carriers and increasing data throughput for onboard internet connectivity. Airlines have adjusted to security concerns, for example Turkish Airlines have invested in tablet devices for their passengers to replace carry-on electronics for watching IFE onboard. US Homeland Security seems to be easing on electronics bans with no plans to extend them further.

Video player SDKs such as our PRESTOplay solutions are helping carriers to build DRM-enabled player applications for Android, iOS, Windows, and Mac based systems that support their content monetization strategies. In addition these apps offer premium playback features to improve the viewing experience.

BYOD devices

This doesn’t mean that in-seat screens will disappear; rip-and-replace is expensive, long-haul carriers want return on their investment, and passengers still enjoy viewing on in-seat screens (as I’ll discuss). Player applications compatible with customer devices are often also compatible with seat-screen operating systems. Industry leaders suggest that the future lies in some type of coexistence, either using both devices at once or both models in operation across different planes in the fleet.

Demands of Carriers and Passengers

Passenger appetite for IFE remains high. Recent global passenger surveys from the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) and SITA have suggested that the majority of passengers are highly resistant to any reduction in IFE systems onboard and prefer onboard services delivered through in-seat touchscreens. Additionally, the IATA 2016 Global Passenger Survey cited that 51% of passengers would use their own device when streaming IFE content onboard, up by 12% on 2015.

From carriers, we are seeing a demand to streamline their video entertainment workflow and adopt software compatible with both delivery models, preparing for the future IFE landscape.

castLabs technologies handle the entire video entertainment workflow from content processing through to distribution. This starts with our Video Toolkit, securely preparing streaming video formats in the cloud for IFE delivery. Providing secure offline multi-DRM through DRMtoday Onboard. PRESTOplay video player SDKs support fully featured multi-device playback for IFE content.

To discover more about how castLabs solutions can streamline your IFE workflow, contact our sales team at sales@castlabs.com.

Research and statistics from:
Hazel Plush, ‘The death of in-flight entertainment?’. January 2017. The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/is-this-the-death-of-the-seat-back-entertainment-screen..
James Durston, ‘Inside the billion-dollar, super-censored inflight movie industry’. August 2014. CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/12/travel/secrets-of-in-flight-movies.
‘THY to offer free WiFi, improve in-flight entertainment systems following US ban’. March 2017. Daily Sabah https://www.dailysabah.com/tourism/2017/03/25/thy-to-offer-free-wifi-improve-in-flight-entertainment-systems-following-us-ban.
Mary Kirby, ‘Industry stakeholders break out their in-seat IFE crystal balls’. July 2017. Runway Girl Network. https://runwaygirlnetwork.com/2017/07/31/industry-stakeholders-break-out-their-in-seat-ife-crystal-balls.
‘2015 Passenger Insights Survey’. February 2016. APEX. https://www.wired.com/story/dhs-tsa-laptop-ban-extra-security.
‘Passenger IT Trends Survey’. 2017. SITA. https://www.sita.aero/resources/type/surveys-reports/passenger-it-trends-survey-2017.
‘2016 Global Passenger Survey’. 2016. IATA. http://www.iata.org/publications/store/Documents/GPS-2016-Highlights-Final.pdf.