YouTube Red is killing traditional Inflight Entertainment

TL;DR — Traditional IFE is dead because of players like YouTube Red.

I worked in the inflight entertainment (IFE) space on a previous startup. It’s a heavily dominated market by big players. Guys like Panasonic and Thaleshave the market dominated when it comes to integrated IFE systems (seat back displays etc).

Traditional IFE

So what’s traditional IFE and why do I care? Traditional IFE is basically your standard movies, tv shows and seat back package. It’s been around for decades.

Even new, inflight wifi streaming providers still utilise this method. They will service traditional IFE content to your own device.

IFE providers spend large amounts of money financing their movie selection offering to airlines (by proxy of the airlines order). The primary requested content by the airline will be pre-released movies.

The licensing of this model normally operates around you pay a monthly/yearly fee per movie per flight. Irrespective of the amount of people who watch it. It’s essentially the old traditional movie rental model. You rent the DVD, not a license per person to watch it.

Future IFE

The IFE market is starting to adapt but at an extremely slow pace. When I was in it, I really wanted to move the focus from traditional IFE and into the traveller.

Display rich, immersive content about all airline’s routes and destinations. Let the passenger fall in love with their destination before they even get there. Increasing the airlines inflight revenue.

If you have an offline server on a airplane, it’s got lots of bandwidth and storage. Offering a selection of movies is one thing, but someone could download the movie pre-flight onto their iPad.

What they can’t do, or is extremely difficult, is to take the New York Times website with them. They can’t take an entire google search of ‘Paris’ on their iPad.

YouTube Red

This is where YouTube Red will really disrupt. One of their major selling features is “Save Offline”.

As bandwidth becomes more obtainable, users will be at their airport, select a 720p movie for their iPhone or mobile device and consume onboard.

All for a standard fee. No revenue share to the airline.

Well played YouTube.

You can see Hollywood slowly adopting this model with Netflix, YouTube Red and iTunes. Time is the only factor until I can have a pre-selected, pre-released content on my iPad to enjoy on board. Even if all I want is to read and discover Paris ;)