Posted on: 23 July 2015 by Ross McSweeny
Greig Hilton, SVP of business development at Piksel – new entrants to the airline industry – has explained the company’s vision for in-flight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) in a webinar titled, “Joining the dots between airline customer experience and loyalty.”
Citing figures that suggest 80% of passengers carry a smartphone on-board, 40% carry a laptop and 37% carry a tablet, Hilton stated that if airlines weren’t offering some form of branded experience through personal electronic devices (PEDs), they were missing a trick.
He emphasised that PEDs allow airlines to engage the passenger outside the flight time and said this type of brand engagement encourages passengers to be loyal. Piksel Voyage, the company’s IFE service, gives passengers the opportunity to download content before the flight.
Piksel describes its Voyage product as a ‘digital travel companion.’ As well as providing ancillary revenue for an airline, or serving as a premium product differentiator, Hilton says a “wholesale model, bundled into a certain tier or tariff an airline is looking to promote, is gaining interest.”
Hilton pointed out the solution means airlines can offer passengers free IFE as a consolation when things go wrong; if a flight is delayed, for example.
How does the technology behind this system work? “The platform is in real-time polling with the airline’s booking system, so if there’s a change to that schedule then providing the PED is connected to Wi-Fi, the content license for that particular flight will be updated,” Hilton asserted.
Currently Piksel “has managed to clear right times for the flight plus two hours,” Hilton said. “So if there is a delay and a person hasn’t connected then ultimately the content will release at the start of their original flight time. If the delay’s longer than two hours they can still watch the content but it may finish before the flight ends.”
It is rights which are the issue with this particular IFE solution. Hilton acknowledges that ‘content is king,’ but confided that although Piksel works with GEE and Spafax, their existing deals with incumbent partners are a barrier. These partners want to protect their business and insist on holdbacks or
exclusivities to make sure they get the value from their content.
However, Hilton also thinks “in-flight and territory-specific rights are beginning to loosen and become more flexible with new technology.
“We have to find a common rule that all the studios are comfortable with. Not from a technical point of view, but more from the customer experience point of view. Having content sets with different license periods can be confusing. Over time as the product becomes a success they may wish to extend that!”
“There are conversations with more willing partners,” Hilton continues. “The BBC has offered rights for the flight times plus six or twelve hours, in which the flight time just becomes a window in which to start the content, but ultimately you can continue the interaction with the passenger beyond the flight.”
Despite launching only three months ago, the Piksel Voyage service currently has four major Hollywood studios on-board. Hilton confirms talks with content providers about other studios becoming involved are taking place.
Finally, Hilton revealed Piksel is working on the next iteration of the product, which “includes multiple digital formats; not only movies and TV, but magazines, newspapers, maps, promotions and advertising.”
When someone asked at the end of the webinar how long Piksel Voyage takes to deploy, Hilton concluded, “It depends on both the content partners and the airline’s marketing plan to drive people to use the service. Technically it can be integrated in two to three months and available to download in the app stores, but everyone has to come together to agree a launch time that will get the biggest bang with the customers.”
So although it appears it will be a while before numerous airlines begin offering this service (Transavia recently became the launch customer), it clearly has the potential to re-define how airlines and passengers alike view the concept of IFE.