Spafax’s Buzz Set to Break the IFE Content Cycle, Increase Flexibility

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Paul Colley Spafax
Image via Spafax

APEX Media spoke to Paul Colley, Spafax’s senior vice-president of Technology, about how the company’s new Buzz and Sprint products will help airlines align more closely with the content experience travelers are used to at home. The content service provider is also introducing a team of specialists in specific types of content who will share their expertise across multiple airlines.

Spafax has launched a centralized platform designed to streamline content management processes and reduce in-flight entertainment (IFE) lead time. Buzz, which launched in mid-August after 18 months of development, is designed to move content, metadata, rights management, scheduling and screening processes more quickly through the production pipeline.

Spafax’s existing content and metadata is currently being migrated from Spafax’s legacy system into Buzz, which features a document-oriented database and uses cloud-based infrastructure. The new platform already contains over 100,000 titles and millions of items of metadata.

Traditionally, IFE has followed a cyclical approach to content acquisition and scheduling. According to Paul Colley, senior vice-president of Technology at Spafax, it was time “to break the content cycle, and deliver an ever-increasing set of content with the amount of flexibility that passengers would want to see.” A key driver of Buzz is the shift from linear to on-demand entertainment, spurred by streaming services like Netflix and Disney+. “The experience on the ground had leapfrogged the experience in the air,” he explained.

“Airlines will see a difference in terms of content being able to be scheduled outside of the standard monthly refresh cycle.” – Paul Colley, Spafax

Some of Buzz is built from off-the-shelf products and some is bespoke. The lack of consistent IFE file standards requires a solution that can work across multiple platforms and delivery mechanisms. “We don’t have a ubiquitous standard that pervades the industry. We do have APEX and APEX TECH to try and drive standards, but it’s always been down to the vendors to follow those standards,” Colley said.

Cue Sprint, Spafax’s cloud-based ingestion, encoding and delivery pipeline, which enables source content to be prepared and uploaded onto the integrator’s network within hours. Sprint pulls everything together into “mezzanine files,” which are then used to quickly create the files that will work with each specific airline’s systems.

Alongside Buzz sits Spafax IQ, an IFEC data analytics platform that pulls multiple data sets into one central platform, providing airlines with a global view of passenger engagement. The platform contains over 30 data visualizations that provide in-depth insight into content consumption. In addition to these insights, Spafax has created a bespoke IQ Score using simplified Bayesian methodology to compare the performance of a title, compared to similar titles.

Part of the ambition underpinning Spafax’s broader digital transformation is to not only to support greater volumes of content, but to manage content acquisition across multiple clients. To address this, Spafax is adding a team of specialists in specific types of content – sports, arts, music, etc. – who will share their expertise across multiple airlines.

The next phase of Buzz, scheduled to begin by the end of the year, involves the planning and programming sections. “That’s where airlines will see a difference, in terms of content being able to be scheduled outside of the standard monthly refresh cycle,” Colley explained.

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