Clarifies that whilst Phantom Media do act as CSP for some of Bluebox’s programmes, they are not exclusive. Stellar Inflight says it secured the Jetstar iPad deal and brought Bluebox to the table to write the app and get it Hollywood approved.
Rick Stuart, co-founder and former managing director at content service provider (CSP) Phantom Media, says he has left the company following its sale last year to Dawson Media Direct, a leading supplier of newspapers and magazines to airlines.
While Stuart is pursuing other business interests in an unrelated market space, he says he intends to keep an element of interest in the IFE sector through some consulting projects.
Phantom Media acts as a CSP for its joint venture Bluebox Avionics, which provides inflight entertainment (IFE) solutions to airlines. Bluebox is playing a crucial role in Jetstar’s rollout of Apple iPads as IFE, although it is working with CSP – and programme manager – Stellar Inflight on the Jetstar programme. BlueBox was also recently contracted by Thai Airways International to initially deploy 650 of the devices on aircraft.
However, since Stuart has participated in the IFE space from the vantage point of both CSP and IFE hardware specialist, I asked him to give his thoughts about the state of the industry today. For instance, does Stuart agree with former digEcor marketing director Adam William’s recent statement that Google, Apple and telecoms “will set the pace” for IFE and connectivity?
Says Stuart: “Yes, I agree wholeheartedly – I would have to, as its something we’d been saying at Phantom Media for quite some time, almost from the beginning of launching Bluebox in 2005.”
He adds: “I would agree that Google are ones to watch, they are able to harness operating systems, web presence (neh domination) and now their foray into mainstream media distribution. Apple, perversely, I’m not so sure about, they will continue to dominate technology innovation but their outright dominance will probably slip, even in the phone/tablet space – a well known investment analyst is already advising a ‘sell’ position on Apple stock….foolish or inspired foresight? Time will of course tell.”
Note to readers – Apple shares today fell for a fifth day, closing down 4 per cent, “on speculation that demand for the iPad may slip and that wireless carriers will cut their iPhone subsidies”, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.
But how does Stuart perceive the ‘state of the nation’ of IFE content in particular?
He suggests that any IFE and connectivity system – either currently flying or about to, no matter what technology is deployed – will have to become “a platform that is tightly focused on delivering commercial propositions that may at least go some way to covering the cost of their existence in the first place. I think some airlines have cited in the past that a service ethos is the primary driver for offering a comprehensive IFE service but even these carriers must now be questioning costs. Whatever these commercial initiatives are they will go hand-in-hand with off-board connectivity as that is the only way you can truly extend the ‘wired’ element of our terrestrial lives and therefore leverage the unique opportunities that an airline ‘captive’ audience presents.”
“The adage ‘Content is King’ is never truer especially now that the average passenger (consumer!) has a plethora of choice(s) available to him/her at any point during their waking day and any number of ways in which to consume it – this situation will only ever get better in the future. Therefore, will the unique relationship between airline and traditional content suppliers be maintained? Under the greatest pressure will be the Hollywood movie distributors who will in the first instance want to maintain the unique airline release window which supports their price point model but given the increasing speed with which the same material is available for purchase and download it will be difficult to maintain the status quo – certainly from the perspectives of those that really matter – the passengers! There is a view that synchronising content available for purchase with airline use/availability may engender a greater commercial opportunity but I don’t see much appetite to test this hypothesis voluntarily within the established IFE supplier community.
“Perhaps the most obvious sector to benefit from technology changes in an aircraft is the games industry, which certainly will embrace connectivity to passenger devices…there are others, Amazon, Groupon, etc, etc.”
Do you agree or disagree with Stuart’s assessment? Have your say in the comment section of this post.