Lifetime achievement award – Michael Childers


From time to time, APEX honors industry leaders who have dedicated their lives to the enhancement of the passenger experience and driven transformative change for the industry.  The APEX Board considers nominations once each year, but since 2014 only three such awards have been given.

This year the award goes to an industry veteran who has been responsible for everything from bringing some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters onto passengers’ IFE screens, to helping make IFE content more accessible to those with hearing or sight impairments.

Michael Childers

Michael Childers, who will be given his award at APEX/IFSA EXPO in Long Beach, CA on 26 October, has a track record of innovation and leadership that stretches back for over four decades.

With the formal nomination having been made by Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh, this is in fact the second time Michael Childers has been recognised by APEX.  

In 2013, he was the recipient of the Outstanding Contribution Award, for leadership in the digital transformation of IFEC. Michael was the seventh recipient of that award – Sir Richard Branson was the first. Michael joins Steve Harvey as the only two people to have received both awards.

Since then he’s continued to innovate and to be at the forefront of key industry developments.  

Commenting on Michael Childers’ commendation, APEX CEO Dr Joe Leader said:

“As an APEX Board of Directors member, Michael advanced APEX through some of its most transformative moments. Michael boldly advanced APEX TECH through a transition from an unpaid to a high-quality paid event that reached the highest attendance levels in APEX’s history while advancing new APEX content delivery specifications at an incredible rate. 

“With his belief in technology across the entire travel spectrum, Michael was an incredible advocate in APEX’s acquisition of Future Travel Experience. At the end of his eight years, Michael advocated for Star Alliance CEO Jeffrey Goh to continue APEX’s advancement as his replacement for his board seat. It’s an incredible legacy that continues well past Michael’s incredible tenure on the board.”

About Michael Childers

Michael Childers has been active in the passenger experience industry since the 1970s, acting as a content distribution executive, a technology executive, and industry journalist.

In 1973, Michael moved from AT&T to Swank Motion Pictures.  That move led to him embarking on his journey in the IFE industry. 

In 1977 he was  approached by 20th Century Fox’s non-theatrical film executive, Sid Newman, who came to Swank, with the idea of setting up an IFE division, which then became Swank Worldwide Entertainment.

Swank Worldwide Entertainment was the  first independent content aggregator in the IFE space.

Michael took over as head of the company in 1984, releasing now iconic films for IFE like “When Harry Met Sally (the number one grossing IFE film in the year it was released), “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “City Slickers,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “The Last Emperor.”

In 1996 Michael bought Swank with investors, expanding it as LightStream Communications Group to be involved in both content distribution and supply chain automation and integration.  

He subsequently served as CEO of LightStream Communications Group and Managing Director of Content and Media Strategy at The IMS Company

Since 2011, Michael Childers has served as Chief Consultant, Content and Media Strategy at Lufthansa Systems. 

He also consults to AERQ, and is chair of the Board of Advisors at Above Aero Media Services.

Along with his industry work, Michael is an Independent journalist and regular contributor to a variety of industry publications.  

A key member of the APEX leadership team

Michael Childers has been on the APEX board of directors for eight years.

As Technology Committee chair, he became committed to moving the IFE industry content delivery supply chain into the broader digital content delivery ecosystem of the media and entertainment community, enabling IFE access to content delivery source materials from elsewhere in the ecosystem beginning in 2015.

He established relationships with key entertainment industry bodies, giving APEX a seat at the table for technology development affecting the industry.

Making IFE content more accessible

Michael has done vital work in the area of content accessibility for those with disabilities.  

This culminated in him serving on the US Department of Transportation’s ACCESS Advisory Committee in 2016, as well as chairing the IFE Working Group.  

Following negotiations with key advocacy groups such as the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the American Council of the Blind, Michael was instrumental in securing an agreement on the provisioning of closed captions using new technology.

In recognition of his leadership role and the successful outcome of the discussions, Michael Childers was awarded a leadership plaque by the then US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx.

“Under Michael’s APEX leadership, airlines agreed to require content providers with captions and audio descriptions to provide them as a deliverable”, says APEX CEO Dr Joe Leader.

“When airlines upgraded IFE systems in their lifecycle, those systems would be required to have support for captions and audio descriptions. For accessibility advocacy, Michael crafted a proposal that delivered a long-sought win.”

“For the airline industry, Michael secured for APEX airlines an affordable, level-playing-field requirement. APEX secured the backing of its airlines, A4A, and IATA in advancing the standards thanks to the universal trust that all parties had in Michael’s work in Washington, DC.”

The fourth great paradigm shift in media and entertainment

Michael Childers is still very much active in the industry, and is engaged in issues such as the integration and automation of the IFE content delivery supply chain, data analytics, and content acquisition and licensing. 

His current focus is helping the industry get to grips with many of the changes in business models and technologies (for example, how to integrate IFE and connectivity as an integrated service) that is happening now, and will accelerate over the next five years.

According to Michael Childers,  “the migration into direct-to-consumer (D2C) business and delivery models is, in my view, the fourth great paradigm shift in the media and entertainment business. 

“For the passenger experience industry, that portends further migration into cloud-based workflows, the convergence of IFE and connectivity, a conversion to subscription-based licensing, and eventually—in a few years—into a paradigm in which the airline provides the pipe and the passenger provides the content. 

“This means data analytics, and a content delivery supply chain that utilizes edge caching. This migration will be more disruptive to our industry than anything in the past. I see CSPs migrating into digital experience managers, where managing passenger engagement displaces their previous role in content selection and licensing.”

According to Dr Joe Leader, there is a lot industry professionals can learn from Michael Childers’ track record of success:

“Industry professionals starting off now can learn from Michael Childers the genius beauty of genuinely following your passion to drive solutions that better the world. 

“The greatest differences in our world are made by those that connect and advance step-by-step. Just as Thomas Edison advancing the light bulb was a 1000 step process, Michael Childers’ contributions via APEX advanced standards that power the screens flying all around the world today.”