Opinion: Publisher’s Notebook – Part One

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After seven years serving as publisher of APEX Media, Spafax has elected to move on from the role with great appreciation to APEX for the opportunity. While APEX’s platforms will continue strong as ever under the ongoing direction of the association working with a new partner, Spafax’s executive vice-president, Al St. Germain, looks back on a highly rewarding and eye-opening time at the helm of this unique media venture.

News and media has always been an invaluable resource for the APEX community, and no more so than in the past year, which has impacted the aviation industry beyond anyone’s imagination. The changes to all of our businesses have been profound, and they’re set to continue throughout 2021. 

As EVP Spafax in the US, I have had the privilege of serving as Publisher of APEX Media since our very first days on the job in early 2014. As such, I want to reflect back on some of trends, events and people that have made the past seven years an adventure. 

It is very easy to view things through a “reverse-COVID” lens of pessimism, but our industry has made significant strides in recent years and will continue to do so as we work through the pandemic.

In 2014, APEX’s very first issue of APEX Experience focused on content. Hot topics included whether early-window Hollywood movies would ever be available on passengers’ portable devices, and a look at the tangled web that is music licensing. In fact, music licensing would be the subject of one of the most well-attended – and contentious – breakout sessions in APEX EXPO Education Day history. I know that because I had the good fortune of moderating that very session in Anaheim, California.

Illustration: Angelica Geisse

The demand in 2014 was to have more in-flight entertainment (IFE) content available on more devices and on more aircraft. For the most part, passengers have had that wish fulfilled. In particular, the advent of low-cost wireless IFE systems has opened up opportunities for more carriers to offer programming. However, that also resulted in less commitment to in-seat entertainment, bar a few notable exceptions.  

But one thing very few people saw coming in 2014 was the impending boom in non-studio content. Netflix’s House of Cards was only one year old and Amazon Prime Video was just getting started. Flash-forward to 2021 and streaming providers dominated the 2021 Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. Many of those nominated programs are not available for in-flight licensing – the producers of those films and TV shows would much rather you access their hits directly via your carrier’s high-speed connectivity. 

What does this new, direct connection mean for airlines, which have long used IFE, in whatever form, as a way to connect with their passengers? Perhaps airlines can use their role as aggregators and curators to offer an experience that doesn’t require three different streaming subscriptions? I can say from personal experience that content service providers are certainly having to pivot accordingly. 

Although things might be tough now, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next seven years bring and how APEX Media will continue to report on the industry’s most pressing issues.

In Part Two, I’ll be sharing some parting thoughts on the evolution of the aircraft cabin. The end of an era seems like a good time to indulge in some good old nostalgia.

Read the second and third parts of Al St. Germain’s Publisher’s Notebook series.

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