EXCLUSIVE: Air Canada Launches Free At-Home Streaming Service


Air Canada streaming service

APEX Media spoke to Air Canada’s director of Brand Experience, Anton Vidgen, about the airline’s new streaming service, which he views as an extension of Air Canada’s current IFE offering. Consuming content at home has become increasingly popular during the pandemic and Air Canada is the first airline to address this opportunity, according to Eric Rosset VP, Business Development at CineSend, which developed the streaming platform and recently became an APEX member.

Air Canada announced today that it will offer over 200 titles via an online platform created by CineSend. The service is available to members of Air Canada’s loyalty program, Aeroplan, at no cost for one month starting today, and is accessible in Canada only.

Air Canada streaming service

“Other airlines offer streaming on board, including Air Canada Rouge, but we have not seen any examples of other airlines offering an at-home streaming product,” said Anton Vidgen, Air Canada’s director of Brand Experience. “This has been spurred by the current situation. We have been very active in engaging our Aeroplan membership at home, as many of them are not flying. This is part of our overall ‘Travel at Home’ campaign. We wanted to bring a bit of the Air Canada flight experience to their homes … the graphical user interface (GUI) looks a lot like our onboard in-flight entertainment.”

An email will be sent to Aeroplan members and Air Canada customers today, providing information for how to access the streaming service. For those who are not Aeroplan members, it’s possible to sign up to gain instant access to the platform.

Academy Award best picture winner, Moonlight, is one of the titles available to stream. There is also a plethora of Canadian content, including films and shorts from Telefilm Canada, National Film Board of Canada, the imagineNATIVE film festival, Reel Asian film festival and Prends ça Court, as well as LGBTQ2+ content from OUTtv, like cult favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race. Closed captioning is also available.

“While there is some international content, the majority is Canadian as all of the content is from Canadian studios and distributors,” Vidgen said, adding that the focus on Canadian and LGBTQ2+ content is in celebration of Canada Day on July 1 and Pride Month, which is currently underway.

“We’ll certainly be looking at the data so see how we may be able to offer this on an ongoing basis.” – Anton Vidgen, Air Canada

Toronto-based CineSend, which provides encoding services for Air Canada’s IFE television content, noticed an opportunity as virtual cinema became a phenomenon during the pandemic. “We launched a streaming platform in March for another customer,” said Eric Rosset VP, Business Development at CineSend. “After the cancellation of SXSW, film festivals around the world were looking to conduct a new way of doing business, recognizing there is still an appetite for content at home. We had some experience delivering the solution in a related media space, so we had the technology under our belt…Air Canada was the first airline to recognize this opportunity to bring entertainment to customers at home.”

CineSend will also be providing analytics services to help Air Canada assess its at-home streaming platform. “We’ll be able to access stats like which titles were watched, how long they were watched for, what a user watched and how many views each title had. There will be analytics for the ads as well,” Vidgen explained.

The advertising component will be limited and similar to the in-flight entertainment experience, according to Vidgen. Ads will be shown at the beginning of the film and will only be targeted based on whether the viewer is accessing the portal in English or French. Since the platform supports both languages, the ads will be shown in the relevant language for each viewer. There are no banner ads on the GUI itself.

Air Canada is considering extending access to the service beyond one month. “As this is the first of its kind in the world, we’re keen to see how it is perceived by Aeroplan members,” he said. “We want to gauge customer reaction for the next month and will certainly be looking at the data so see how we may be able to offer this on an ongoing basis. One of the areas we’d love to expand more in the future, is how we may be able to offer Hollywood blockbusters on this service as well.”