It’s All About the Stream: Q&A with Paul Harper


Paul Harper, Harper & Co.
Image via Paul Harper

Paul Harper, director of consulting firm Harper & Co., discusses the future of IFE and why in-flight connectivity will be a critical link for passengers going forward. This article originally appeared in the Expo Daily Experience: Preview. Read the full issue and register for FTE APEX Virtual Expo.

How has COVID-19 affected content supply to airlines?
With many cinemas still closed, studios have been putting their content directly onto streaming platforms, whether owned or third-party. This allows studios to collect a wealth of data and insights that ultimately help guide decision-making and establish return on investment. They know who is engaging with the content and whether the audience likes it. As a result, I think we’re going to see a decline in content that’s available to airlines, with much of it going direct to streaming platforms.

Is connectivity then the priority so that passengers can view content on their preferred streaming platforms?
Connectivity is undoubtedly important. Customers want a seamless experience as they travel, whether they’re on a train, on a bus, in a hotel, at the mall or on a plane. They don’t want to have to relearn an in-flight device, like we expect them to do now. The industry is clearly going that way and there’s lots of excitement on the horizon with better, low-latency broadband like OneWeb that really enables a seamless ecosystem.

What about device pairing, which allows passengers to consume their own content but on the larger in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen?
If airlines can enable that, that’s gold! That’s how they can continue to make good use of their hardware investments. Customers may not want to watch content for several hours on a small five-inch screen or nine-inch tablet. In today’s world, we’re so used to jumping from screen to screen that if airlines can create a seamless, ideally cable-less, way to connect personal devices to the seatback screen, there’s an opportunity for them to deliver an in-flight digital experience we have yet to see.

What other consumer trends will affect passenger preference for content consumption onboard?
I think binge-watch, which has only increased during the pandemic, is shaping consumer expectations. They may rely on two or three different streaming platforms and are used to accessing content when and how they want it. That’s not always possible with IFE systems due to licensing, technology, supply chain and capacity limitations. But, if you look at the in-flight experience as a truly digital one with high-capacity, low-latency connectivity, then that becomes absolutely possible.

Virtual Expo Connection – Event Agenda

Paul Harper moderates: “Navigating Content Disruption.”

Dec. 8, 7 p.m. GMT