What the Heck is ‘GeoTainment’?

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‘GeoTainment’, is location triggered audio content for IFE. Never heard of it? Neither had we, not until we talked to Gotham Studio’s, Peter Nissen. Here is the story in his own words:

“Stories about Hollywood celebrities, earthquakes, grizzly bears, cowboys – just a few of the things you’ll hear when you listen to GeoRadio, a GPS-triggered audio channel you can sample at the Thales booth at APEX. If this is where IFE is going, sit me down, crank it up, and take me on a journey: this is great new stuff.”

Why hasn’t this been done before? It seems so simple: location-based storytelling. Passengers hear a guided tour of the land below – not just dry points-of-interest, but professional narrators, vivid writing, music, and sound effects. It is produced by Washington DC-based entertainment veterans Gotham Studios, who approach it with equal parts entertainment and documentary.

Nissen goes on, “The product can be used in tandem with the Moving Map – as the plane moves across the map, you hear stories – and as a stand-alone broadcast audio channel.

No special hardware is needed: GeoRadio is a software program. It consists of two elements: an application, and a library of audio assets. The program, which is run-able on any IFE framework, pulls location data from the flight deck, and analyzes that data to select an audio asset. It even figures out how far away you are from the point-of-interest, and triggers a spoken ‘prefix’. For example, ‘8 miles on our left, the Saint Louis Arch.’ The next day, on a slightly new flight path, you’ll hear something different: ‘2 miles on our right, the Saint Louis Arch.’ This is smart programming.” Note our picture of narrator Doug Gochman at the GeoRadio studios in a recording session. And yes, Virginia, there are women narrators. Check out their website demos.

“Storytelling is a powerful thing, a fundamental component of entertainment,” says Peter Nissen, an Emmy-winning television producer and President of Gotham Studios. “A few years back, during many trips from LA to New York, I realized I wanted to hear the stories of the people we were flying over.” He called a software engineer colleague, pulled together a team of writers and narrators, and created GeoRadio. He draws on his own varied background – he’s worked on The Today Show, National
Geographic, the History Channel, and E! Entertainment Television – to find interesting stories wherever planes fly. Their tagline: “Every place has a story to tell.”

But there’s hard-nosed business going on here, too noted Nissen. “As I spoke with IFE Managers, we began to realize that this could be, not just an incentive to fill seats – it can be a platform for revenue generation. If you can keep passengers engaged with compelling content, you have a foundation for effective, targeted advertising. That’s the model that broadcast radio has proven successfully for many years.”

Nissen says there’s been good initial interest from IFE Managers, and eagerness for its roll out. This year’s APEX meeting is that roll out. GeoRadio is being offered by route, and they are developing content for major routes worldwide, including the Far East, Middle East, Europe, and North America. Airlines can test-drive the product without great commitment by ordering just one route to start.

The program has multiple-language capability, and available languages include English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Simplified Chinese. All content is customizable per airline, and the Gotham Studios team will work with the airline to develop custom messaging and advertising. Yearly subscriptions will include content “refreshing,” to keep the programming up-to-date and accurate.

Nissen invites IFE Managers to email him at nissen@gothamstudios.com or call him at 323-309-5289 to arrange for an in-flight demo. The company’s product website has an entertaining demo, and samples of points-of-interest worldwide in various languages.

Location-based storytelling is inevitable – you’re starting to see a lot of GPS-triggered applications on handheld devices down on earth, but we haven’t yet seen it implemented in the skies. It’s a natural fit. And this week, Gotham Studios is bringing it into the IFE space and setting the bar high, with GeoRadio.

Contact: Peter Nissen, Gotham Studios, nissen@gothamstudios.com, 323-309-5289

Editors Note: Recall that Airshow had started to develop a similar concept many years ago (“Airtell” – Rich Salter’s presentation at AEEC in Vancouver), but this has much more music and storytelling quality than simply point-of-interest and flight info.

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