Innovation rises again for Global Eagle

Global Eagle is “back in the rapid innovation game.” That’s the message Mike Pigott, VP Products and Solutions sent during a recent conversation at Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) 2018 in Hamburg, Germany. With management and financial uncertainty (mostly) settled the company is focused on developing and delivering new revenue streams and bolstering the existing product lines. The changes span the content and connectivity markets, often combining the two as Global Eagle seeks to leverage its breadth of offerings in delivering true value to its airline customers.

Streaming IFE a “Go”

The streaming IFE market is chaotic and crowded. And now Global Eagle is also a player. The company launched Airconnect Go as an entry-level entertainment solution to fill multiple market gaps. The Airconnect Go solution is built on the company’s software experience and content library. That gives it strong positioning, even as a brand new option in the market running on commodity hardware.

Global Eagle's Airconnect Go hardware is a commodity product but the software and content are anything but
Global Eagle’s Airconnect Go hardware is a commodity product but the software and content are anything but

Indeed, Pigott noted that many of the other streaming IFE solution providers are coming to Global Eagle for content packages. The company delivers what is asked of them but with its in-house experience matching packages to regions and markets it believes that the Airconnect Go offering will be better personalized for different airlines. It can be more flexible and adapt quickly, using its in-house data analytics from the portal software to deliver better options to the airlines.

Pigott wants to ensure the company has the right product for every airline, “We see a number of segmentable markets that we are not fully addressing with our current product suite. We’re going to start addressing them. We think the market is going to become more nuanced.” Airconnect Go can backfill on leased aircraft within a carrier’s fleet, delivering IFE with a common interface and content selection as the embedded kit but for aircraft that won’t be around long enough to justify the higher capital costs for such systems. It can also bring a carrier new to IFE on at lower cost, with a smooth transition to a more full-featured solution.

Is this truly innovation given the existing size of the market? Maybe, maybe not. But it is significant given the name recognition and upgrade path Global Eagle offers. Time will tell if the market buys into that plan.

Custom TV ads drive revenue

Another major revenue-building area for Global Eagle is a new offering to inject personalized ad content into the live television stream it delivers to aircraft. When converting the data streams to digital for the IPTV delivery Global Eagle insisted on preserving the cue tones used by broadcasters for local advertising signaling. This decision is less common but the company expects it to pay off significantly as it builds out a stronger targeted advertising offering in the IPTV product. With this platform the “local” advertising slots can be filled by Global Eagle rather than from the network. The company passes those ad slots along to the airline or other sponsorship partners. Today the ads are relatively generic, but there is potential for far more specific targeting.

With a heavy industry focus on personalization and recommendation engines for shopping portals and other inflight products it might seem an obvious extension to deliver truly personalized ads in the TV content as well. Global Eagle is not going that far, however. The company is clear that it does “not create or store data profiles of passengers.” There will be ad segmentation similar to how banner ads are served today, “all based on segmentation of the market such as by origin and destination,” but not truly targeting individuals. Perhaps that changes in the future. But, at least for now, the company is steering clear of the “creepy” side of personalization by not getting too specific in the ad targeting.

There may be technical reasons for that move as well. Today the ads are injected on the ground, not at the aircraft. Delivering more personalized TV spots would require either more bandwidth or that the insertion happen through the on-board hardware. Getting the extra processing power to provide such flying is not trivial.

And moreā€¦

These are two of the projects the company talked about at AIX but there are other efforts in play as well. With a three hundred-ish new aircraft lined up in a trio of new connectivity contracts and strong renewals pacing on the content side of the business things seem at least stable, if not even moderately positive. The 2017 numbers were very bad but the company believes most of the dead weight is cut from the system. The main question is whether this innovation can happen quickly and profitably enough without another major capital investment.

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I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I've been covering inflight connectivity, loyalty and the passenger experience for more than a decade with hands-on experience to deliver unbiased analysis. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .