Southwest bulks up television content, launches free promotion

Washington DC
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Southwest Airlines is adding additional channels to its Ku-band live television offering and offering the service for free for a limited time through a new partnership with satellite television provider Dish.

The Dallas-based airline first announced that it would test the system, provided by Global Eagle Entertainment subsidiary Row 44, in June 2012. Last month, it increased the number of channels to 13 from nine. The service allows customers to stream content to their own personal devices through wi-fi hotspots onboard aircraft.

Since Southwest started quietly testing the live television product, it has rolled out the service to its 425 wi-fi equipped Boeing 737-700 and -800 aircraft, which makes up about 75% of its fleet. These aircraft fly in the domestic USA and to Puerto Rico.

The airline says that it will offer the television service free of charge for a limited time as part of the promotion with Dish. No end date has been determined, but free service could last until the end of the year, says Southwest. The carrier has evaluated different pricing plans and has been offering the live television service for $5 and wi-fi connectivity for $8.

Dish is offering its own promotions through the partnership to Southwest customers, but Row 44 continues to provide the satellite connectivity service and content for the channels, as well as wi-fi service. Southwest first signed an equipment contract with Row 44 in early 2010 for Ku-band wi-fi and finished installing it on the 737-700s and -800s in February.

"Southwest Airlines continues to innovate and evolve our on-board customer experience," says Kevin Krone, chief marketing officer at Southwest Airlines. "We started with Wi-Fi and now have expanded to television."

In addition to the live television, Row 44 also offers an on-demand video service to Southwest, which it first announced in February. Passengers have access to 75 on-demand movies and television shows. The content is loaded onto an onboard server that streams the videos to passengers' own devices within the cabin.

"This trailblazing partnership is a validation of our industry-leading technology and our integrated content and connectivity platform," says John LaValle, chief executive of Global Eagle Entertainment.