Part of the Advanced Inflight Alliance (AIA) group, content service provider Inflight Productions (IFP) provides an array of ‘passenger experience’ services to airlines including content licensing, advertising and promotion, creative print and online services, graphical user interfaces, video and audio programme production, and application development for personal devices on iOS, Android and Windows. We recently spoke to IFP CEO Roberts Hunter to get his views on the ever- evolving passenger experience industry.
What do you believe differentiates your company’s market offering from the competition?
The biggest differentiator for IFP is that we don’t look at the passenger as a consumer; we look at the passenger as an individual that airlines need to engage in a relationship. We are all passengers and can relate to this experience. Our primary competitors focus on how to monetise the passenger when that is just an outcome of passenger engagement, which also leads you to monetising your airline client. Our focus is on coming up with innovative solutions that allow our clients to engage their passengers in new ways. A good example would be our development of GUIs and handheld applications that connect the passenger to the onboard experience from anywhere in the world.
We are able to combine the strengths of our different divisions to offer airlines a broader range of options to choose from, whatever their IFE needs. We believe that the future of IFE lies with passenger engagement; from the moment travellers think about a journey to the moment they return home, to connect with passengers in all the environments they pass through on their journey. We are therefore taking a unique approach to provide airlines with more personalised and relevant content, bundled offers with a wider variety of services and options such as applications, eAdvertising solutions, pay-per-view and on-demand content reaching passengers prior to and during their flight, that will allow airlines to not only engage with their clients throughout the entire travel experience, but will provide them with new ancillary revenues.
The biggest challenge is providing a value-added experience with increasing financial constraints. All this on a wide range of platforms that continues to expand as Wi-Fi and connectivity enter the market. The constant development in technology is a big help; however, it is not sufficient alone. The development of our ability to blend creative, technology and content services in a wide array of formats and offerings coupled with developing the overall passenger experience throughout the journey is an exciting challenge.
What are you looking forward to most in 2012?
2011 was a pivotal year for us as we underwent fundamental changes to set the stage for a new strategic vision with major business realignments. Through these changes, we won several cross-organizational contracts, thus allowing our airline clients to benefit from the combined expertise of our many skilled divisions for projects comprised of a variety of IFE needs such as content, GUI design, software and IFE solutions, all in one uniquely tailored offer.
We aim to continue this momentum throughout 2012, tailoring our approach to providing more holistic innovative content and creative offerings to airlines. Many of the airline customers I have met with over the past few months comment that they are tired of complacent vendors for their IFE services. They joke about CSPs being content, complacent and comfortable. So our goal is to provide the industry with one group to meet their content, software and solution needs under the same roof and to draw on the broad experiences of the AIA group to offer new innovative solutions that we are uniquely positioned to provide. The IFE market will continue to evolve through our passenger engagement strategy. We need to position ourselves to be hardware agnostic by working with all providers to meet the diverse needs of airlines. A key example of this is the launch of a non-connected wireless IFE portal [developed with fellow AIA group company DTI] complete with tailored content to meet the needs of airline passengers as the use of personal electronic devices on board becomes more widespread.
How do you assess and address the changing media-consumption habits of the travelling public?
When IFE hardware first came onto the scene, the passenger concept of a portable content platform was limited to laptops. Today, they are carrying more computing power than it took to go to the moon and a higher resolution display than traditional NTSC/PAL television. This new dynamic of embedded, airline and customer-supplied devices creates new opportunities for our business. As the platform basis continues to expand, airlines are looking for a level of consistency in the presentation layer and experience of these discrete devices. IFP and the AIA group are uniquely positioned to meet this challenge through providing GUIs for embedded and handhelds, content solutions from Hollywood and regional sources, and software solutions that create a level of consistency across the hardware spectrum.
It is also important to note that the continuum we are looking to engage is from the point a passenger considers a trip until they return back home. In this case we also have to look beyond the aircraft to lounges, hotels, websites, and other venues that allow for opportunities to engage the passenger in the continuing conversation. With our micro sites, websites and portable applications we are already supplying the next generation of solutions in traveller engagement to our customers and their partners.
How do you see your role changing to adapt to the introduction of streaming media to tablet devices and/or passengers’ own devices?
Our role is to offer solutions to our airline clients for them to remain ahead of the curve whether they are looking for top-of-the-range IFE packages or cost-efficient alternatives. Streaming is a technology that has already evolved in the consumer space and we have to work with both suppliers and customers to find solutions that work for both of their industries.
What changes do you anticipate in the licensing models for future IFE content?
This is an area that will truly evolve in multiple different facets. As airlines continue to focus on reducing costs and content providers work to increase the revenue they draw from the market there will be multiple different strategies that develop. We have some thoughts on this front, but this area will be one of the true competitive landscapes for overall IFE industry in the future.