Airlines hoping to differentiate their in-flight entertainment offerings are looking to the outer reaches of pop culture for new genres of video and sound experiences.
By Caroline Ku
Last summer, passengers of British Airways were offered in-flight entertainment (IFE) different from the typical action-packed Hollywood blockbusters or binge-inducing TV series: slow television. This endurance programming spans full, unedited coverage of a particular, ordinary event.
The British Airways episode featured seven uncut hours of a train journey from Bergen, Norway, to Oslo from the perspective of the conductor. The only nuances occurred when the train made a stop or traveled through a tunnel.
Slow TV was recently popularized by NRK (the government-owned Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) covering events such as National Knitting Night and National Firewood Night. It has become such a phenomenon that sakte-TV (slow TV) was named Norway’s word of the year in 2013. The Yule Log, however – a commercial-free video loop of a wood-burning fire – was first broadcast in America in 1966 and reappears on screens every year around Christmastime.
The decision to include slow TV within IFE was inspired by the seatback animation that shows passengers where they are flying on a map, something that Richard D’Cruze, IFE manager for British Airways, says that passengers stare at for hours.
“There’s definitely a hypnotic, calming and entertaining quality to slow TV that is perfect for in-flight entertainment,” he says.
THE CUTE FACTOR
By Katie Sehl
Who can resist the adorable hijinks of little kitty Tom Tom trying to roll his way out of a hamster ball, or the endearing antics of the pocket-sized kitten that throws his paws up in surprise? In the face of such cuteness, even the toughest, most hard-boiled humans devolve into feeble baby-talking puddles of goo. Our helplessness has led to total cat domination on the Internet, catapulting felines like Maru, Grumpy Cat and Lil BUB to instant fame with videos and photos racking millions of views.
But it’s not our fault, entirely. While investigating different options for new IFE programming, British Airways stumbled upon some interesting research that suggested watching cute videos may have surprising health benefits. “It might sound barking, but there’s lots of research to suggest that watching pets can enhance overall well-being,” explains Richard D’Cruze, the airline’s IFE manager. Among the research cited by British Airways is the book 59 Seconds: Think a little, change a lot by Richard Wiseman, which finds that watching cute animal videos can lower heart rates and blood pressure in less than a minute. Another study found that looking at pictures of baby animals led to increased levels of concentration afterward.
In response to these findings, British Airways launched a Paws and Relax TV channel in September 2014. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says D’Cruze. The channel includes The Secret Life of Cats, America’s Cutest Dog and the popular animated feature Simon’s Cat – which can be found aboard Etihad flights as well. In addition to enhancing the well-being of passengers, the channel also gives furry orphans the chance to find new homes by featuring animals of the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home shelter. “We’ve been renewing the programs onboard and plan to keep the channel active, as it continues to receive high levels of interest from many of our customers,” adds D’Cruze.
While feline fever hasn’t taken on-board IFE by storm to the extent that it has on the Interwebs, many airlines have been enlisting the talents of furry friends for their marketing campaigns. For Christmas last year, JetBlue launched a pet campaign in support of Lifetime’s Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever movie. KLM’s phony Lost & Found service video, starring an adorable beagle named Sherlock that reunited travelers with their lost belongings, had us all fooled – going viral with over 19 million views to date.