TV Flies Free: stream shows inflight on your gadget for free

Southwest Airlines will let you watch live or on demand TV on your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. And it's free, you just need to sit through Dish Network ads.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor

Under a partnership with Dish Network, Southwest Airlines will let you watch live television on your portable gadget for free.

In a departure from other airlines' strategies -- charging customers or paying for it themselves -- Southwest is having a third party pay for in-flight entertainment. The "TV Flies Free" offer kicked off on Monday. Wall Street Journal reports.

For several years, JetBlue and Virgin America have offered free live TV on seat-back screens, buying the services from DirecTV and Dish, respectively. United and Frontier each charges $4 to $8 for live TV, depending on the length of the flight.

Now, for this year (and maybe in the long term), Dish will pay for the service on Southwest flights -- in exchange for running Dish ads that passengers will have to watch to watch TV for free. (About 109 million passengers flew Southwest last year.)

The arrangement signals a new way for airlines to sell access to their passengers as advertising targets. Several airlines sell ad space on their planes, but the practice isn't widespread.

Southwest customers will be able to access 14 live TV channels and up to 75 on-demand TV shows free on iPhones, iPads, laptops and most other Wi-Fi enabled personal devices during flights on about 75 percent of their fleet. The service previously cost fliers $5 a day, though the airline will continue to charge $8 a day for Wi-Fi access (which you don’t need to purchase to access the free TV package).

Southwest uses Row 44 to provide in-flight connectivity (the only U.S. airline to do so). Row 44 charges the airline for the connection, and Southwest is having Dish sponsor TV service that the airline buys from Row 44.

The partnership is part of Dish's marketing campaign for its Hopper digital video recorder, which lets customers stream TV to mobile devices and automatically skips commercials.

[Southwest press release via Wall Street Journal]

Image: Southwest blog

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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