Image: Marcelo Cáceres

APEX Insight: The merger of the non-theatrical operations of 20th Century Fox and Fox Networks Group means more content, more innovation and more support for airline entertainment divisions.

In September 2015, the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox reached an agreement to expand an 18-year partnership, creating a new content distribution entity called National Geographic Partners, a joint venture that is 73 percent owned by Fox and 27 percent by National Geographic.

Since that time, Fox and National Geographic have jointly owned and operated the properties of National Geographic channels, a combination of domestic and international cable television programs, reaching more than 500 million households and millions more airline passengers.

Now, two years later, the merger of the non-theatrical operations of 20th Century Fox and Fox Networks Group brings tens of thousands of titles from Fox Films, BlueSky Studios, Fox Television and the National Geographic library, and new content from Baby TV, Fox Life and more, in a vast and comprehensive catalog of passenger entertainment for airlines.

The new entity is structured to enable integrated sales, licensing and end-to-end service infrastructure, but has implications beyond merely broadening in-flight entertainment (IFE) choices.

“We can now offer co-branding and development of branded channels on board that are affordable to airlines.” – Julian Levin, Fox

“We can now offer co-branding and development of branded channels on board that are affordable to airlines. This is a significant change for our company, which is dynamic, fluid and flexible,” Julian Levin, executive vice-president, Digital Exhibition and Non-Theatrical Sales and Distribution at Fox, says. “We have just closed a deal with an airline that is exclusively taking Fox content, so we now have enough branding and enough channels to satisfy an airline’s full content requirements.”

Furthermore, 21st Century Fox and Fox Networks Group will continue to push significant resources into an internal innovation group dedicated to exploring the next incarnation of IFE, such as 180-degree virtual reality (VR) content, which they are testing with French in-flight VR startup SkyLights.

The captive audience airlines and film studios once had in airline passengers has drastically diminished due to mobile devices, in-flight connectivity and other mobile digital disruptions. By standing together, pooling assets, tinkering with tech and owning more of both the airline and consumer relationship, Fox’s non-theatrical operations are transitioning in step.

“Businesses used to get together and say, ‘Let’s do this,’ and engineers would then say, ‘OK, let’s build it.’ So, technology would follow the business. But now, business follows the technology; technology is driving the business,” Levin says.

“Better Together” was originally published in the 7.4 September/October issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Director of APEX Media, Maryann has been covering the airline passenger experience industry for nearly a decade. During that time, she has served as an editor, writer, sales rep, project manager and PR consultant in the #PaxEx space.