Continental to Have 80 TV Channels, Program Guide Onboard

Continental, Inflight Entertainment

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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19 comments on “Continental to Have 80 TV Channels, Program Guide Onboard

  1. Did they talk at all about the “internet” service part of the offering? I’m particularly interested in the limitations they have on what content is available and whether there has been any further loosening of those reins.

  2. Wandering Aramean – Oh yeah, we spent the bulk of our time talking about the internet offering, and that’s what I need to think about further. The company is taking a “wait and see” approach when it comes to internet, so you can’t expect to get a full internet offering from them anytime soon. I’ll work on a more in-depth post.

  3. I shall be dreaming of this new system as I sit in 4 x 8hr UA flights from LHR to GIG over the next week!

    Yes, CF, good point – for those of us non-US citizens who couldn’t believe what happened last time (let alone the time before), PLEASE vote today!!

  4. Dream is right. I still can’t get over UA redoing the cabin interiors and omitting seatback video from the 747s.

  5. Can they retrofit this system into the existing seats, or do they do a complete seat swap in those 2-3 days?

  6. Hi DC,

    I don’t book UA 747 flights unless by some miracle I know I’m flying in anything other than economy (very very rare!) for that very reason.

  7. This seems to be great. Did they discuss any their relationship with JetBlue? It seemed that they JetBlue used to only offer LiveTV to airlines that would not be a JetBlue competitor, but given the other LiveTV options out there they probably didn’t have any incentive to keep it in house.

    Although I’m confused, putting the equipment in an overhead bin is a benefit? Where has Live TV been and apparently they’ve spent a bunch of those $15 charges to check their bags.

  8. Well, the 757 AVOD system on CO is great. but its on the international ones. the 767 system, though, is not that great.

  9. Oliver – It’s a complete refit. It will take 2 to 3 days to install on any airplane.

    Chris – Melbourne was fun, and I think sleepy is a good way to put it!

    Nicholas – Yes, we talked about JetBlue. Apparently about 2 years ago they saw the writing on the wall. They assumed that other providers would continue to improve and make their way onto other fleets. So they decided it was better to be a part of that than sit on the sideline. Continental was the first result of that, and they say they’re close with 2 more big carriers.

    The overhead bin is a benefit when Continental has some of these planes flying down to Latin America. They need all the belly space they can get. (BTW, you will able to watch any channels in Spanish that broadcast in Spanish and English.)

  10. Insider info. The company is looking for a buyer to sweep them up and get away from JetBlue. Other than that, I enjoyed my time there, and I always read your blog here while there. Good times, to bad they let a good thing go.

  11. Hey Runway Girl – Yep, they mentioned you would be coming down as well. Too bad we didn’t overlap. I’m not so sure about Oasis. I mean, it’s a creative use of their limited bandwidth, and it’s better than not having it, but I really think full internet access at respectable speeds is the only thing that will really satisfy people. Of course, as you surely heard, that’s not an easy business case for them to make.

    I’m going to write more on this sometime this week.

  12. Looked on the livetv website and there is no update about Continental. They were to have begun retrofiting at the beginning of the year. I can’t wait. BTW – how do they make money on this or is it just to distract passengers from the lowered food quality?

  13. Spa in Catskill NY – They’re going to be charging people for the entertainment, so that’s how they’ll make money. My understanding is that Continental didn’t have to pay much at all to have these installed, and because of that, LiveTV gets to keep a big chunk of the revenue.

  14. By LIVE TV you mean DIRECT TV? I recently flew in one of their 73E and paid $7.95 to have the service from IAH to EWR. I don’t mind paying this for more than 1 hour flights. It was pretty neat watching CNN live and switching to the Cav’s game. Besides, its better than the 73E I flew in a month earlier that didn’t have ANYTHING, not even in First Class!

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