NBC Universal Replaces CBS on American Airlines

In-Air Programming to Come From Company's Broadcast, Cable Networks

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- NBC may still be no match for CBS in prime-time ratings, but the Peacock network just scored a major coup against its competitor by replacing the Eye network as the exclusive broadcast partner for American Airlines, the country's second-largest airline.

CBS, American's broadcast partner of the last 10 years, has taken an aggressive role in recent months to use out-of-home media such as in-flight TV, retail and video screens on subway stations to cross-promote its shows. NBC Universal echoed that approach last January with the launch of NBC Everywhere, an out-of-home branch mostly focused on the New York market, comprising everything from taxis to gas stations to a forthcoming partnership with New Jersey Transit.

Charley Wilson, American Airlines' managing director of external communications and international advertising, said the company had a "great relationship" with CBS but "felt it was time for a change. When the contract was up for renewal we looked at a number of possibilities to supply video programming on American Airlines aircrafts and came to an agreement with NBC Universal. They have a number of programming offerings out there that American Airlines passengers will get to see, including NBC, USA, Bravo, Sci Fi, MSNBC and CNBC."

The American Airlines pact is unique to NBC, which will create a customized programming package of NBCU content for American passengers, unlike similar programming partnerships with airlines such as Delta and JetBlue, which broadcast live feeds of NBCU networks.

Brand Connections
Powering the ad sales is Brand Connections, an out-of-home media and marketing company that has experience in the airline arena. Since 2006, Brand Connections has been selling ads on airplane tray tables for U.S. Airways as part of its Sky Media division.

Brian Martin, founder-CEO of Brand Connections, said advertisers will now be able to access 17,000 in-flight screens 500 airport hotels and 10,000 airport lounges as part of the new American deal. All audience data for ad campaigns will be delivered back to clients directly from American Airlines, incorporating results from 2,000 post-flight surveys from companies including Venue Research and Promotion Research Group.

"American Airlines will provide exact passenger count and exact number of flights ... and when you're dealing with a venue like American airlines the numbers are legitimate. You can't inflate them if you try," said Mr. Martin.

A growing number of airlines are outsourcing their in-flight entertainment inventory to established out-of-home media vendors in order to leverage their existing audiences and client bases. JetBlue, for example, teamed up with Ideacast in October as the premier partner for Airline TV, the out-of-home company's in-flight entertainment network. The fledgling Virgin America even got into the air-TV business with a partnership with HBO to promote the season premiere of "Entourage" in September.

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