APEX TECH: Mary Kirby moderates stellar session on IFE, curated content and the future of CSPs


APEX TECH 2023: Day Two – Runway Girl Networks Mary Kirby headlined part one of a powerhouse panel discussion entitled The Convergence of IFE and Connectivity: Todays IFE Media in the Evolving Content Delivery Supply Chain.

Tom Cruise may have “saved” the Hollywood theatrical market with his Oscar-nominated Top Gun: Maverick but the real heavy hitters in the IFEC space were on stage Wednesday morning at the APEX TECH in Los Angeles.

Moderated by Runway Girl Network’s Mary Kirby, the panel included André Valera, Vice President, Business Development, Touch, ABOVE; Clare Josey, VP Passenger Solutions, Spafax; Michael Valdez, Media Strategy and Quality Initiatives, Panasonic; Oliver de Courson, Sales Director, Vubiquity-Amdocs; Esdra Lamy, SVP, Content Sales, Warner Bros Discovery; Estibaliz Asiain, Sr. Vice President Media & Content, Anuvu, and Shafin Virji; Senior VP Lab Services, West Entertainment/ West Fly.

Covering everything from localization to the ever shrinking D2C window and it’s impact on early window IFE offerings, and the role of CSPs in the streaming BYOD era, the wide-ranging discussion kicked off with Kirby asking Warner Bros Discovery’s Lamy for the Hollywood studio outlook on the current content delivery landscape. 

“We’re very ambitious in [terms of] choosing where things make the most sense for every piece of our IP. But it doesn’t matter how ambitious we are as a studio, there’s still the challenge of the last mile.” Noted Lamy, who freely admitted that as recently as this past week he considered shifting the studio’s recent theatrical release Shazam from its July IFE drop date to May. But Lamy said the logistics involved in getting the film “that last mile” proved to be more challenging than expected. 

“Now, could we do it on two or three planes which we have done in the past with And Just Like That and House of the Dragon? Yeah, we could do that.  But can you get it out to a whole fleet? That’s where we find a challenge … from a studio perspective.” 

Others on the panel agreed that while there have been huge technological advancements towards streamlining the content distribution process, the question of whether the business model justifies the use of the technology still factors mightily into the conversation as well. 

Another topic of note was the changing role of the CSP in the streaming era, with some wondering if IFE content curation was even needed anymore. 

“That’s the $15 million question,” joked Lamy, adding that he thinks the need for curation will always be key, particularly for the studios who are still very much in the licensing business. 

Asiain from Anuvu said that goes double with international carriers, many of whom appreciate the curation CSPs provide. Kirby seemed to agree, noting that as a passenger on a recent United flight she was delighted to find an IFE channel called Herstory, which featured an artfully curated selection of female-focused films in honor of Women’s History Month.

And though the discussion could have gone on far longer, it was Shafin Virji from West Entertainment/West Fly who summed things up perfectly in the end.

“It’s not a one size fits all mentality. There could be passengers that would want their own streaming subscriptions in front of them. And there could be those passengers that are excited to be on board Airline X because of the curated content. That’s where the CSPs come into play.”

“We’re not just content providers, we are content service providers and we work closely with our airlines to ensure that their brand is represented in their content.”