• Piksel and Spafax together bring a flexible in-flight entertainment solution to the airline industry
  • Combination of market leading technology, unrivalled content relationships and operational expertise to transform air travel experience and beyond
  • Voyage product allows airlines to own the passenger journey, connecting the pre-flight, flight and post-flight experiences without a relying on in-flight WiFi

New York, NY | September 24, 2015– Piksel, a global leader in building successful online video businesses, today announced its partnership with Spafax, global content and media agency to the travel industry. The partnership will develop and launch innovative solutions to the market, the first of which being Voyage, a revolutionary new approach to in-flight entertainment which has already been adopted by Transavia, a major European low-cost carrier.

Voyage leverages the video delivery capabilities of Piksel Digital Showcase™, Piksel’s video-on-demand platform, giving airlines greater ownership over the passenger’s journey. In tune with the growing “Bring Your Own Device” trend, Voyage enables consumers to select and download video content to their personal devices, prior to boarding a flight. This opens up a raft of possibilities for airlines to engage with passengers, both pre- and post-flight, as they use the app to choose from a wide range of premium TV shows and films, access and update their booking, and make other travel arrangements.

Mark Christie, CTO of Piksel, commented: “There is a huge opportunity for airlines to delight their customers both on the ground and in the air. A flexible entertainment solution that can be integrated seamlessly into other airline systems is a smart way to extend the passenger experience throughout the travel journey. Using a ‘Download on the Ground’ approach, Voyage doesn’t rely on on-board WiFi to deliver high quality entertainment. For these reasons, we believe that Voyage is a major disruptor and will quickly become a highly attractive option for global airlines. Our experience in delivering video to consumers wherever they are, across all devices, coupled with Spafax’s unrivaled content curation and operational expertise will allow us to shift entertainment on the move to the next level.”

“We have always been at the forefront of innovation in onboard content and revenue generation, and the launch of Voyage is no exception. Voyage will enhance the current entertainment strategies of many carriers and open the door to low-cost content solutions for a whole host of others” said Niall McBain, CEO of Spafax. “Partnering with Piksel, and their expertise in the online video space, has allowed us to rapidly bring to market a new service. Our knowledge of content and the demanding needs of global airlines complements their technical know-how extremely well, and we look forward to working and developing innovative new products that enhance the passenger experience.”

The service opens up a raft of flexible commercial models, allowing partners to choose from free-of-charge, pay-to-access or pay-per-view systems. Its revenue-generating business model, combined with low set-up and running costs, and the opportunity to build in sophisticated brand-enhancing advertising strategies, positions Voyage as a step-change for the video and airline industries.

Voyage greatly enhances the user experience, leveraging the high quality screens found on user devices, and is compatible across iOS and Android tablets and smartphones. The content is locked until the passenger boards the flight, when it then becomes available to view. Once the flight has ended, the content is automatically deleted from the device, respecting all airline industry content licensing agreements with secure content delivery achieved by the DRM functionality of Piksel Digital Showcase™.

This story grew out of proportions as we developed it and so we will run it in a couple parts to follow in succeeding issues of IFExpress. Our streaming video tale began innocently enough with our disgust with conventional TV and the “Paid Programming” channels on our home DirecTV service. We, and many others in the US, have also signed up for Netflix mailed DVD service as well for about ten bucks a month. A commercial-free movie helped us suffer thru our lower cost, DirecTV subscription. We learned thru our tech guru that Netflix subscribers could watch streamed movie videos thru their laptops as a free service from Netflix at no additional charge. All we had to do was download the Silverlight software on the Netflix website and set up a movie queue on their website. In minutes we were watching “Casablanca”… how cool. There was no other hardware required to move into streamed entertainment! With a simple cable, the MacBook was pumping HDMI video to the flat screen, all streamed and controlled via the Internet. We wondered if this would work on the road at an airport (probably), overseas in a hotel (don’t know), or on an airplane (no idea), that all is needed is a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection to the Internet? We will have more on the airplane part later.

Then we heard about Roku. Roku is a small (5″ x 5″ x 1.5”) box that is connected to a TV and receives digital, streamed video thru an Ethernet or Wi-Fi and delivers content to your TV without turning your PC into a video server (see Diagram). We bet it runs a Silverlight kernel like your PC and for $100, it frees up your laptop for other duties. After some research, we discovered that some TV’s (Panasonic) optionally now come with the streaming service capability (probably Roku equipped) and are able to snag over 52,000 movies from Netflix and Amazon On Demand like a PC or Roku. They offer a majority of paid showings but at least 12,000 free with a Netflix subscription. But what has this to do with InFlight Entertainment?

Consider the coming impact of this streaming revolution on mobile entertainment demands: If you think people want entertainment in hotel rooms and airports, wait till they get on an airplane and get a Wi-Fi connection. Sources tell us (last issue) that on the Alaska Air/Row44 demo planes, users were watching YouTube and many were observed snagging streaming video. While we do not know of a Netflix user plane streaming, we would like to hear from any reader who has. More importantly, what impact will this need for IFE (providing no airline or service provider thru-put “throttling”)? What about those stream-it-yourself types who use SlingbBox devices? With Netflix offering more video, audio, and radio choice than any airborne server could possibly provide (granted, not the latest content), will there be a rush to increase airborne connectivity bandwidth, and/or an airline rush to throttle the passenger service, and/or will we see a decline in IFE demand? Both GoGo and Row44 service may see some interesting requests for speed (GoGo more so than Row44 because of the inherent available bandwidth) as laptops become streaming entertainment receivers. Hey, this could kill the airline pay-per-view model! The streaming video phenomenon is also flourishing in the smartphone world as Direct Broadcast Services seek to deliver streamed video to PEDS, MIDS, NetBooks, and any other connected device one might carry.

Next time we will talk about aircraft IFE video streams and a possible new paradigm for onboard, ground-based content delivery.