On Frontier's In-Flight TV Network, Marketers Produce Programming

Law Firm, Luxury Marketers Show Branded Content on Wild Blue Yonder

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NEW YORK -- Watching TV on an airplane is old news. Many carriers offer movies, satellite TV, even XM Satellite Radio.
So far, Frontier's advertisers for Wild Blue Yonder, its in-flight TV network, have included Subaru, Bentley and Qwest, while the offerings have been somewhat eclectic.

For Denver-based Frontier Airlines, though, TV is a whole new concept.

The airline last year rolled out Wild Blue Yonder, its own exclusive network shown on seat-back TV's that airs short independent films and branded entertainment paid for and produced by advertisers.

Lucrative way to reach captive consumers

So far, the programming has been limited to series produced by a law firm and a new cable network, but the channel could ultimately provide marketers with a lucrative way to reach captive consumers and give the advertisers another outlet to distribute content they may have only previously considered broadcasting on the internet.

"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 a flight, 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 for $5. If not, 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. Only 35% of Frontier's customers are opting to pay for DirecTV.

Bringing in-flight magazine to life

"What's unique about the airline industry is you have a captive audience," Mr. Hodas said. "At some point, they'll take a look at that. The appeal to advertisers is, we carry over 10 million passengers a year. Wild Blue Yonder is almost like taking the [in-flight] magazine and giving it life on a television network."

In fact, the crossover is already there. Mphasis also produces Frontier's in-flight magazine and integrates on-screen ad buys with print buys, as well as directing traffic to Wild Blue Yonder's website.

So far, advertisers have included Subaru, Bentley and Qwest, while the offerings on Wild Blue Yonder have been somewhat eclectic. The network has shown short films from the Cloud 9 Film Festival and features on glass-blowing and kiteboarding. The films and features last less than 10 minutes.

But the concept does appear to be catching on. A Denver law firm, Holland & Hart, has begun producing five-minute programs that highlight Colorado businesses, followed by a 20-second ad for the firm.

"Our approach to advertising is more substantive than showy," said Mark Beese, marketing director for Holland & Hart. "We want to provide information that's compelling and helpful to business owners who most likely also have legal needs. [We wanted to] do something to help position the firm and our attorneys as experts, to provide substance rather than just beating our chest."

The perfect demographic

Mr. Beese also said the demographics were perfect for the firm: Half of Frontier's passengers are business travelers, and the average household income of its fliers is $99,000.

Which is another reason why luxury-lifestyle-and-entertainment cable network WealthTV will begin showing content on Wild Blue Yonder next month.

Passengers aboard Frontier flights will be able to view 30 minutes of content focusing on destination travel, fashion, luxury cars, real estate and health. The WealthTV content will be customized for Wild Blue Yonder's format of "10-Minute TV."

"WealthTV's shows feature high-quality production and relevant content that is by nature targeted to an affluent audience," Wild Blue Yonder's VP-national sales, David Valdez, said in a prepared statement. "We are opening up this opportunity to advertisers whose message and brand mesh with the prestige and affluence reflected in this programming."
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