WAEA 2009: Connectivity provider Row 44 unveils ancillary revenue tool

Palm Springs
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In-flight connectivity provider Row 44 has a new tool for airlines to generate ancillary revenue by providing free access to a sponsored in-flight entertainment portal to passengers with laptops and other devices. This could open the door for a new IFE-derived business model.

The portal, known as a "walled-garden", will provide access to a selected set of services like retail shopping, live television viewing, games and information about destination cities, even allowing passengers to book ground-based services and events before landing. It will be offered along side Row 44's unfettered premium internet access.

Row 44 has created a coalition of partners along with SkyMall to offer in-flight catalogue access, JiWire to offer advertising inside the portal, BeDynamic providing destination event booking and Pinger offering a premium for unlimited SMS messaging while in-flight.

Notably, the Home Shopping Network (HSN) has signed on as well as a trial gateway partner. Through the Ku-band satellite link-up, Row 44 will offer a live streaming simulcast of HSN with passengers able to purchase items directly inside the free portal.

With the HSN video simulcast, passengers will not overburden the high-bandwidth network because only a single connection to the network will be registered by the system. Each Row 44 aircraft will be able to accommodate up to 4 mpbs worth of bandwidth, potentially opening the door for future live television channel offerings through the portal.

Generally the agreement will create a 50-50 revenue sharing model between Row 44 and the airline customer after the direct service provider is already paid, says Row 44.

In addition, by digitising the SkyMall magazine Casey Christ, vice-president of airline marketing for SkyMall, believes that phasing out the paper magazine could yield tangible weight savings, but he believes that the paper magazine is an important tool in making passengers aware of the free portal services.

Row 44 says the new portal will be flying by 1 November, but declines to name the launch customer. Alaska and Southwest Airlines are the only operators of the Ku-band service.