Posted on: 06 October 2015 by Ross McSweeny
As the result of a partnership between Virgin America and ViaSat, whereby the latter is providing in-flight connectivity services on ten of the carrier’s new Airbus A320 aircraft, Virgin America has teamed up with Netflix to showcase its new on-board streaming capabilities.
Until 2 March, Virgin America passengers can receive complimentary in-flight Wi-Fi, allowing existing Netflix members to stream programming including House of Cards to their personal electronic devices. New members can use the in-flight Wi-Fi to sign up to Netflix for a free 30-day free trial.
During this period, seasons 1-3 of House of Cards will also be available via the airline's recently upgraded Red seatback in-flight entertainment (IFE) platform.
“Netflix and Virgin America are both known for their focus on innovation and for shaking up their respective industries – so we're thrilled to team up to bring the best in technology and entertainment to the skies. These latest generation investments in our in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment platforms allow us to provide the largest breadth of streamed content ever available at 35,000 feet – along with entire seasons of some Netflix favourites via the Red platform,” remarked Abby Lunardini, Virgin America’s VP brand marketing and communications. “We hope our guests enjoy the offering and know that even President Frank Underwood can't get entertainment this good on-board Air Force One.”
The new ViaSat service will be rolling out to about one aircraft per month through to June 2016 to align with Virgin America’s aircraft delivery schedule.
“Bringing ViaSat’s in-flight internet service and streaming capability to an aircraft creates a really natural spot for an online media service to acquire new customers or bring more to current customers,” remarked Don Buchman, ViaSat's VP commercial mobility, at the APEX EXPO. “When the internet came out 20 years ago, no one knew what it was going to be. We thought e-mail was the killer app. Then, once it was out there and more bandwidth came on, videos started to get really big. It’s a natural progression to find value where you didn’t know it existed and that’s what we’re enabling airlines to do with our service.”
Buchman continued, “When providing Wi-Fi type services, airline’s initially thought, ‘How can I package this really expensive pipe in a way that creates a little bit of value but doesn’t cost me a lot or disappoint my customers?’ Now what we’re saying is, ‘instead of worrying about packaging, just present them with the real internet.’ From what we’re seeing, the passengers love it!”
ViaSat offers a high service level agreement per device [12Mbps per passenger]. “We can talk bits and bytes and economics but what passengers truly understand is when they’re sitting on an airplane and just watched two hours of a streamed movie over the real internet; that makes sense.”
When asked about ViaSat’s aims, Buchman commented, “We decided to jump to the end-game and offer the real internet – not cached, stored content, but real, streaming internet content. There’s an ice hockey player named Wayne Gretzky. Someone asked him, ‘How do you score so many goals?’ And he answered, ‘I don’t skate to where the puck is, I skate to where the puck’s going to be.’ That’s how we think when it comes to delivering in-flight entertainment and connectivity – we are enabling passengers today to ‘Bring their own Rights’ to the plane and have access to their content when they want it.”
Buchman finished by saying, “The internet and entertainment are converging and you’re seeing that with the Netflix and Virgin America announcement. We believe bandwidth demands will continue to increase, so we want to provide the capacity needed to allow for 4K television, 3D TV, etc. That’s why we are making high-value, long-term investments in our satellite system. We want to grow our presence worldwide, and our next satellite, ViaSat-2, is a key part of that strategy as it doubles our bandwidth economics and extends our coverage by seven times.”
Virgin America’s #NetflixOnboard partnership was marked with a House of Cards and Netflix-branded aircraft (pictured).
Stephanie Taylor, editorial assistant, Inflight / Inflight-Online.com
APEX EXPO, Portland, Oregon