I love that airlines are starting to release more information about the most watched onboard entertainment each year. Mostly, I’m happy because it’s proof they actually pay attention. That gives me hope that they will do a better and better job of tailoring the options to be ones that people want to watch. We’re a long way from the random single episode of Will & Grace that we had to endure on those overhead screens… or are we?
I turned to United first since they give the most detail on this. United only gives information on the most-watched content on seatback screens which is a bummer since streaming is an increasingly big deal. The airline breaks it down into three categories. Here they are from most-watched on down:
|Movies||TV Shows||LiveTV Channels|
|Bohemian Rhapsody||Big Bang Theory||ESPN|
|A Star is Born||Friends||CNN Headline News|
|Crazy Rich Asians||Game of Thrones||CNBC|
|Green Book||Modern Family||CNN|
|12 Strong||The Office||ESPNEWS|
|Aladdin (2019)||Big Little Lies||HGTV|
|Instant Family||Bob’s Burgers|
|John Wick: Chapter 3- Parabellum||How I Met Your Mother|
|The Aftermath||The Simpsons|
Much of this makes sense, especially on the TV side. People are looking to either catch up on episodes of shows they watch, re-watch episodes they love, or get into new shows they’ve heard a lot about. Considering that, these shows all fall into line, and it provides a blueprint for what’s important to have on offer. (More full seasons, please.)
For LiveTV, that’s also about what I’d expect. Sports is king, then news, and of course, gotta have some HGTV. None of that is surprising, but take a look at those movies.
A Star is Born? Good movie, but it’s really, really heavy and emotional. To me, that’s not the kind of movie you want to watch on an airplane. Apparently a whole lot of other people disagree, and it’s not just on United. According to TPG, this was number 1 on JetBlue and Southwest, number 2 on Alaska, and number 3 on American.
I’m not surprised to see movies like Bohemian Rhapsody, Crazy Rich Asians, and Green Book up there. Those are movies that got a lot of buzz (even if not all positive), and it made them well-known even by those who hadn’t cared to see them initially. That to me is the kind of movie that’s good to catch up on while at altitude. Aladdin was good for kids (and frightening for parents who had to watch a blue Will Smith), and then movies like 12 Strong and John Wick fit the bill for action. Instant Family works for that comedy(ish) fix, but I remain surprised that there isn’t more appetite for comedy. That’s always my go-to on the airplane.
There is one really strange outlier: The Aftermath. I have never even heard of it, and I’m not alone. I see that it made less than $10 million in the global box office. It was largely panned by critics, and only about half the people who rated it on Flixster liked it. It’s a post-World War II romance/drama piece. I really can’t figure out how this did so well, but maybe United promoted it heavily on the home screen or something like that. I asked but wasn’t able to get any more detail.
The other airlines that TPG interviewed gave largely similar types of movies and television shows… except for American.
Look at those TV shows. The number one is the NBC special? This is the same stuff that used to be shown on those overhead screens. Apparently we haven’t gotten beyond that. And Austin City Limits? I’m sure it’s good but live music seems fairly niche. I find this really surprising that people couldn’t find more appealing options.
Then again, maybe American just hasn’t been offering anything good. I asked the airline for more detail on this, but I didn’t get a response during the holidays. So, we’ll just have to wonder what exactly is wrong with the people watching TV on American.
Update: I received more detail from American. This explains a lot about the NBC thing:
The NBC relationship is heavily promoted onboard and on the home screen (including by NBC stars in vignettes ads). But we also had content available first on American before viewers could even see it on NBC, including the pilot episode of NBC’s Perfect Harmony (featuring Anna Camp from Pitch Perfect and Bradley Whitford – better known as Josh Lyman from West Wing).
But American also gave me its full list, and guess what… The Aftermath is #5! What the heck is it about this movie?!
|Aquaman||AA NBC Special|
|Bohemian Rhapsody||Friends (Season 1)|
|A Star is Born||Austin City Limits|
|The Mule||Modern Family (Season 9)|
|The Aftermath||Big Bang Theory (Season 1)|
|Captain Marvel||Calm Soothing Nature Scenes|
|Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald||The Good Place (Season 3)|
|Avengers: Endgame||Disney Mickey Mouse (Season 4)|
|Aladdin (2019)||Disney Tsum Tsum (Season 3)|
|Alita: Battle Angel||30 Rock (Season 2)|