It's Not an In-flight Movie. It's HBO

Delta to Offer Cable Channel's Programming on Seat-Back TVs

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NEW YORK -- Coming soon to a Delta Air Lines flight near you: some sex (and the city), some violence and some salty language.
Starting in May, certain Delta passengers can keep up with their favorite HBO movies and series.

Delta is becoming the latest airline to put a new twist on in-flight entertainment. In a deal brokered by Creative Artists Agency, Delta is teaming with Time Warner to offer passengers access to HBO programming on planes already fitted with video-on-demand seatback TVs. The dedicated HBO channel will offer Delta customers 40 to 50 hours of HBO content, including movies, specials, comedy shows, documentaries and original programming such as "Sex and the City," "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," "Entourage" and more.

Specially fitted planes

Starting in May, the HBO channel will be available on the specially fitted planes to first-class and international BusinessElite customers at no cost and to domestic economy-class customers for $5 per feature film or movie and $2 for all other TV programs. By next year, Delta will offer the HBO service on all flights longer than four hours.

Passengers can also view free 30-minute blocks of HBO content composed exclusively for the airline on the planes' overhead entertainment systems.

Creative Artists Agency, which works with Delta, brought the idea to the airline. Delta paid an undisclosed licensing fee to Time Warner for the HBO programming and will share revenue with the network. HBO said it may roll out its programming to other airlines in the future if the Delta venture proves successful.

"We're thrilled to work with HBO," said Joanne Smith, Delta's VP-marketing. "HBO is a pioneer in original programming, and we're proud to offer select programming through our state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system."

Combating personal entertainment

Like many airlines, Delta is hoping to combat the wave of passengers who already bring their own entertainment on board, from portable DVD players to iPods to traditional magazines and newspapers.

However, don't expect to see the full cupboard of HBO programming. Anybody getting on a Delta flight hoping to see the episode of "The Sopranos" where Ralph Cifaretto literally loses his head, or the "Sex and the City" episode where Samantha has sex in a chair placed on the bed, or the numerous f-bombs dropped on "Deadwood" will probably be disappointed. The HBO programming selections will be toned down, and flight attendants will have the ability to apply parental controls to the channel.

"Delta's advanced in-flight entertainment system will provide fans of HBO programming with an ideal viewing experience while they travel," Dan Selig, director-international distribution for HBO, said in a statement. "The innovation allows another opportunity to showcase the high-quality and award-winning programming that has defined the HBO brand, as well as providing a new avenue for exposure to a greater domestic and international audience."

Translation: If people see HBO programs they like on Delta flights, perhaps they'll go home and sign up for the pay cable channel.

Live TV, movies, music and video games

The on-demand HBO programming will be available through Delta's new two-class, domestic, transcontinental aircraft. The entertainment on those aircraft include 24 channels of live TV, more than 20 movie selections, music and 10 video-game selections.

Delta is the first airline to offer HBO content but certainly not the first to try something different. Last year, Denver-based Frontier Airlines rolled out Wild Blue Yonder, its own network shown on seat-back TVs. It airs short independent films and branded entertainment paid for and produced by advertisers.

"It was an option for travelers who didn't necessarily want to purchase the DirecTV programming or who didn't have their own entertainment," said Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas. "And, frankly, it provides a revenue opportunity for the airline."

Frontier splits the revenue evenly with Denver-based communications firm Mphasis Integrated, which spun off a division, Mphasis on Frontier, to handle Wild Blue Yonder.

At the beginning of Frontier flights, the seat-back TVs come on and offer a five-minute preview of DirecTV. After the five minutes, passengers have the option of purchasing the satellite-TV content for $5. If they don’t, the TVs automatically default to a map channel, where passengers can track the altitude, speed and path of the flight, or to Wild Blue Yonder, which is free.
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