Airlines to spend $900m on IFE content by 2018: IHS

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Airlines' projected spending on inflight entertainment (IFE) content will increase to $900 million by 2018 from $660 million in 2012, a new study from IHS shows.

The increase in spending is driven by new lower-cost methods of including inflight entertainment content on aircraft, such as streaming it to passengers' own personal devices. Stronger demand from carriers in emerging markets such as Asia-Pacific and Latin America is also contributing to the trend.

More than 10,500 aircraft - 57.5% of the global commercial fleet ­­- are outfitted with an IFE system, says IHS. By 2022, almost two-thirds of these aircraft will have some form of entertainment, says the research firm.

North America accounts for 32% of the IFE content market, followed by 26% in the Asia-Pacific region and 17% in Western Europe.

"The increasing penetration of IFE on board airplanes will largely be driven by the growth of wireless IFE and connectivity, which some view as a low-cost alternative to embedded systems," says Rose Yin, market analyst for aerospace electronics at IHS in a release. "However, with the general trend of seatback systems getting lighter and more seat-centric, the demand for embedded or semi-embedded seatback screens will continue to grow for years to come with an increasing number of aircraft, as well as with premium airlines that aim to outfit most of their aircraft fleet with personal IFE."

While wireless inflight entertainment is gaining popularity, security concerns have kept "early-window content" off of passengers' own personal devices. Therefore, embedded systems continue to play a role, says IHS.

Early-window content includes movies that are available 60 to 90 days after their release in theatres, before they reach DVDs.

Firms like Lufthansa Systems and Bluebox Avionics have engineered ways to provide secure early-window content on tablet devices that airlines distribute on board, but the content has not made its way to passengers' own personal devices yet.

German content specialist Advanced Inflight Alliance told Flightglobal in April that it would like to see early-window content on passengers' own devices as soon as this year, but input from studios and airlines will play a role in shaping that timeline.