Taking control: the evolution of IFE now means you can watch what you want, when you want

BA News • March 2014

Let me entertain you

Richard d’Cruze

British Airways in-flight entertainment manager

Tuning into the latest blockbuster is a ritual of long-haul travel, but who decides on an in-flight entertainment menu and how does it come together? The Club meets Richard d’Cruze, British Airways’ in-flight entertainment manager, to get the inside scoop

How do you decide which films to show on board? Do you spend a lot of your time watching movies?

I wish that was true… let’s just say I watch a lot of trailers! We update our content monthly and we always aim to take the best of the new-release films available based on box-office ratings. With such a wide demographic of customers, we have to make sure we hit the right mix, including family-friendly titles during peak holiday periods. As our route network expands, we add more language options, too – like our recent Korean and Nigerian content. Not all titles are available with subtitles and dubbing, so we try to have a selection of local films. We are also keen to promote British film-making and feature a Best of British category as well as well as a Hidden Gems category to showcase lesser-known films.

Do you get access to every film out there?

We can only show content that has been licensed for in-flight entertainment (IFE) and not everything is available; that’s down to the studio, the distributor or the director. So the Star Wars films, for instance, have never been allowed on in-flight entertainment…

What’s the most popular content?

In general it’s movies first, then TV, audio and games. TV is really gaining in popularity – we offer so many box sets on our new planes that are perfect for long-haul travel. We’ve dubbed it ‘binge-watching’, where you can catch up on lots of episodes during one flight. The most watched programmes are Friends or The Big Bang Theory.

How do you keep people interested in audio?

Our audio strategy is to help listeners discover new music. This month we launched a partnership with Songlines magazine, where we’re getting musical legends, like Sir Mick Jagger, to nominate their world playlists.

What has been the biggest change in IFE in the last ten years?

Two big trends have impacted IFE. The first is time shifting: being able to watch what you want, when you want. That’s been replicated on planes, so all our long-haul fleet have audio-visual on demand. The other trend is space shifting. So it’s not just watching what you want, when you want – with the arrival of tablets and smartphones, now you can watch it where you want. That hasn’t quite translated to IFE yet.


Beauty and the geeks: The Big Bang Theory is consistently one of the most popular TV shows on board

The introduction of personal devices must have been big competition…

Yes, but what people don’t realise is that we get access to early-window content. These are new movies that we can show up to three months before their DVD release, which is very valuable as it means we will always have newer movies that customers can’t get a hold of themselves. So, in February, we showed Gravity, which was actually still in some cinemas at the time.

How is BA staying competitive in its offerings across the industry?

We’ve significantly increased the size of the media servers, so all of our new A380s and 787s come with our new Thales system, where customers have over 1,600 hours of content to choose from. We’ve also recently extended the IFE, so you can start watching content from boarding till landing – a great benefit for families. About a month ago, we began allowing passengers to use their personal electronic devices throughout taxi, take-off and landing.

What’s your best piece of advice to customers when it comes to IFE selections?

We recently relaunched our High Life magazine entertainment guide, which features reviews and recommendations by respected names such as Mark Kermode. There’s so much good content out there, and our aim is to get everyone to explore and try something new. Who knows? You might be really impressed.

This article has been tagged BA, Technology