Snack Attack: The Rise of Snackable IFE

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Binge watching the Star Wars saga or long-running TV shows in-flight might still be the only way to fly for some passengers, but if the wealth of short, multi-platform, snack-sized IFE content on display at the recent APEX EXPO in Long Beach is any indication, bigger isn’t always better.

As far as many producers and content service providers (CSPs) are concerned, snackable IFE is definitely having a moment. And this time we’re not just talking about gritty, amateur GoPro and YouTube clips – which had their time in the IFE sun a couple of seasons back – but rather glossy, Hollywood-style, short-form offerings that can best be described as thoroughly addictive and highly snackable.

At APEX, there was a plethora of new short-form holiday concert offerings from Bonneville Distribution’s Music and the Spoken Word series, which Bonneville still provides free-of-charge to airlines by the way. And there were major partnership announcements from CSPs Global Eagle and Spafax on the snackable content front as well.

Tailor-made for use not just in-flight but also via passengers’ mobile devices in the airport and beyond via its Content-To-Go platform, Global Eagle confirmed plans to partner with Time Inc. on a series of short-form documentaries exploring the stories behind many of the iconic photos showcased in Time’s celebrated multimedia project 100 Photos: The Most Influential Images of All Time.

Featuring short, eight-to-fifteen-minute clips profiling what Global Eagle SVP of content distribution and purchasing Jim Griffiths says can best be described as “goosebump pictures”, the 100 Photos series will be distributed to Global Eagle’s airline, cruise ship, and maritime customers around the globe under the snackworthy-sounding moniker TIME Flies.

Not to be outdone, Spafax also announced plans to leap into the bite-sized IFE fray through a unique partnership with Business Traveller magazine on an original inflight TV series entitled, appropriately enough: Business Traveller.

Designed to bring the best of Business Traveller magazine to life onscreen in fun, quirky, and easily-digestible clips covering everything from future travel trends and eScooters to Geneva Airport’s roaming robot kiosks, the show’s imminently shareable content is also available online on Business Traveller‘s dedicated Facebook page and YouTube channel.

And though it would seem that the short-form trend is the natural offshoot of our quick-fix, text-and-social-media-obsessed era, veteran industry analyst Henry Harteveldt, founder of the San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research group, says the trend actually started long before most people even had dial-up.

“I think this really all began a while ago with the [late 80’s] comedy TV show called Short Attention Span Theater,” says Harteveldt. “But the truth is that as technology allows new content to be introduced and distributed and as the commercial landscape evolves, organizations are bringing more snack-sized content to the market. The popularity of TED Talks on Delta was an eye opener to many people in the entertainment world about the popularity of these very brief, but focused types of presentations and speeches and so on. So, as airlines look for new content to offer to their customers and manage their entertainment budget, the bite-size content stands out.” And, as Harteveldt is quick to point out, the fact that original short-form content is generally cheaper to produce and license than traditional Hollywood content is only part of the reason for its growing popularity on the IFE front.

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“I think its a combination of things. I think it’s a combination of the budget and a combination of the content and, frankly, it’s also due to the vastly improved quality of the short-form content that’s out there. Whether it’s documentary or filmed entertainment or something from a concert, or whatever it may be, you’ve got so many more content providers that are out there that are signing deals for these that then provides them the platform – whether it’s Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu or others – so, the producers or content creators find that there’s a market out there [for this content] and the airline market then becomes one of the areas that they then look at for follow-up distribution,” explains Harteveldt.

“Whether it’s long-haul or short-haul, as airlines offer streaming entertainment or seatback on-demand IFE, or both, someone may just want to watch a ten-to-twenty-minute snippet of something as they’re eating or perhaps on the last few minutes of their flight when they don’t have enough time to watch a traditional television program or start a movie, but they’ve got ten or fifteen minutes to go and they’d like to be entertained,” adds Harteveldt. “It’s exciting because also, I don’t know how much of the content is produced outside of the US, but clearly there will be a portion that is, and that, of course, is helpful for airlines that serve global audiences.”

Which means that multi-cultural short-form content like Encore Inflight Limited’s acclaimed six-part documentary series Barber Shop – which explores populations “in transition via the microcosm of the barbershop” in the UK, India, Algeria, Brazil, South Africa, and the US – could soon make snackable entertainment the new normal on the international front as well.

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