Subscription giant Netflix wants to improve and expand in-flight streaming

Subscription giant Netflix wants to improve and expand in-flight streaming
Video streaming service Netflix is aiming for the skies, quite literally, as it aims to improve in-flight technology. It also wants to expand its services to more airlines. Will this move give Netflix more wings? Shashank Venkat explores 

Netflix has taken the subscription wars right into the skies, as it aims to expand its subscriber base. The company recently announced that it will offer bandwidth-efficient technology for mobile devices which can bring down the costs for airlines by up to 75%. Partner airlines could then pass on the benefit to travellers as low-cost or even free Wi-Fi which can be used for in-flight entertainment on their personal devices.

This technology can be a great value-add for the airlines, as until now, passengers have been limited by the choice of available movies or expensive in-flight Wi-Fi plans. Airlines that sign-up for this deal can attract more flyers by advertising their low-cost or free Wi-Fi plans and the unlimited choice of content offerings. Netflix will also work closely with the airlines to track user metrics and provide rich customer insights to airlines to improve user experience.

While the next generation Wi-Fi technology will be made available sometime in 2018, this is not Netflix’s first partnership with the airline industry. Back in 2015, the company partnered with Virgin America to showcase its content offerings on-board. Since then, Netflix’s in-flight streaming service has also been made available on carriers such as Aeromexico, Qantas, and Virgin Australia.

Incidentally, Amazon had also tied up with JetBlue airline two years ago under which Amazon Prime subscribers could get unlimited access to in-flight Wi-Fi to stream videos. However, we haven’t heard about Amazon’s foray in the airline space since then.

We have always maintained that Netflix is as much a technology company as a media company, and the latest move shows that the company is thinking beyond its investment in pure-play content. Last year, Netflix introduced a feature which allowed subscribers to download videos for offline viewing. This option has been used by many travellers (including me) to stream content on personal devices. Netflix has also been working on developing bandwidth-efficient technology for areas with poor internet access, especially as it expanded worldwide last year.

On the part of Netflix, this seems like a pretty smart move to gain more subscribers, especially those on the move. During its second quarter results, Netflix already impressed watchers by adding 5.2 million subscribers. With this new offering, Netflix wants access to a large chunk of the airline industry that sees close to 4 billion flights taking off every year. While existing customers can straight away get access to their favourite shows with the airline Wi-Fi, it will also be an attractive proposition for non-subscribers to sign up for their free trial month. Once a customer signs up, the diverse range of content offerings combined with a super-slick subscription management platform will make it unlikely that customers will want to cancel their service.

Of course, this move also fits well with Netflix’s strategy to become the streaming service of choice for viewers worldwide. Netflix can now be accessed through a variety of devices – mobiles, tablets, set-top boxes, TV sticks, smart TVs and even hotel entertainment systems across the globe. By climbing on-board the airlines, Netflix might have just found a hitherto untapped opportunity, 30,000 feet above sea level!

Your move next, Amazon!