Continental to Have 80 TV Channels, Program Guide Onboard

I had the chance to spend the afternoon yesterday LiveTV Headquarterswith the LiveTV Crew (not to be confused with 2 Live Crew), and I have to say it was a very interesting experience. While I was there, they opened up their product roadmap to me and let me play with some of the cool things they were working on, including the system that Continental will begin installing in less than two months. I wish I could show you some videos or photos, but alas, they wouldn’t allow it. In fact, the only picture I could get was this one, from the outside of their nondescript building in Melbourne, Florida.

So what did I learn about the new system that Continental will be installing? It’s far superior to what LiveTV partners JetBlue (which is also the owner of the company), Frontier, WestJet, and Virgin Blue have today. Some of the highlights:

  • There will now be 80 channels onboard instead of the current 36
  • No more flipping through channels required – they’ll have a program guide just like your cable company at home
  • The screen is now 8″ wide with a 16:9 aspect ratio (wide screen) vs the current 6.8″ screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio (almost square)

In other words, this system is pretty damn awesome. The first Continental plane (a 737-900) will be outfitted around the 1st of the year and then it will take a couple of months to get it certified by the FAA. Once that happens, they can really crank up the installations on all 737-700/800/900 and domestic 757 aircraft. In case you’re wondering, this system is much better for the airlines as well.

  • The old infrastructure was so big it had to go in the belly of the plane, but the new one fits in an overhead bin
  • The new infrastructure weighs about a third less than the old stuff
  • New channels can now be added without having to add additional hardware, as is currently the case
  • It will now take 2 to 3 days to install on an airplane vs the 4 to 5 days currently

It’s also interesting to note that LiveTV has now started entering into agreements where they foot the bill for most of the installation and they keep the revenue. In other words, it’s at most a very low cost proposition for airlines to add this system to their fleet if they’re willing to let LiveTV charge for the product. I was told that they are in serious negotiations with a couple other large US airlines, so we could be seeing a significant improvement in the world of onboard entertainment domestically relatively soon.

There was so much more to our conversation today that I need to digest. Keep an eye out here and on BNET for more in the coming days for more on inflight entertainment and the problem with internet access.

For all my American readers . . . don’t forget to vote today!

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