Advanced Inflight Alliance hopes to see latest movies on passenger devices soon

Washington DC
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Content specialist Advanced Inflight Alliance (AIA) says it would like to start streaming early-window content on passengers' portable electronic devices (PEDs) as soon as 2013, but a firm timeline for when passengers can expect it remains to be seen.

"If I were to control our variables, I'd see it this year," says Louis Belanger-Martin, chief executive of the German content provider. However, that decision requires input from other companies such as airlines, studios and connectivity providers for it to be deployed and proving that the technology is secure enough that the passenger could not walk off the aircraft with it. That process is a team effort, he says.

"It's a concerted effort, for the studio, the airline and the passenger," he says, adding that he is "really confident" the secure technology will be available at some point.

Early-window movies are available 60 to 90 days after their release in theatres, before they reach DVDs. Connectivity providers have achieved this through seat-back installations and tablets given to passengers in flight, but bringing the latest content to passengers' own devices has been slower to implement given concerns about piracy and security of the content.

Global Eagle Acquisition stockholders approved the firm's takeover of connectivity provider Row 44 and an 86% share of AIA in January. The two companies are working on content solutions, but AIA also partners with companies like Gogo, Panasonic and Thales to provide content for about 130 airlines.

Row 44 says it is interested in early-window content at some point, but the solution would first have to meet security requirements of the Hollywood studios that own the content.

"In terms of some of the high definition content video, we are working with the studios on a solution," says John LaValle, chief executive of connectivity provider Row 44. "We can't really discuss exactly what that solution will be right now, but we're in active discussions with all the large studios on how we're going to handle that, and no one is going to do anything until both Global Eagle and the studios are completely confident that we can protect their fine work and intellectual property," says LaValle.

AIA will provide the on-demand video content that Southwest Airlines plans to offer on its Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 aircraft outfitted with wi-fi, but it will not be considered early-window.

Connectivity providers have made strides in offering early-window content on tablets, but not on those that passengers own just yet. Lufthansa Systems announced last March that it had been approved by studios for early window content for in-seat systems and tablet devices distributed to passengers on the flight. Bluebox Avionics also offers early-window content on tablets deployed to passengers.

AIA companies IFP and DTI are working together to procure early-window content and create software to support it. On IFP's website, it says that some of the elements of a secure system include encryption, watermarking and Digital Rights Management technology and firewalls.