Warner Bros. Discovery SVP Esdra Lamy is pictured

Warner’s Esdra Lamy on paradox of choice and its impact on IFE


Given the proliferation of streaming services, many air travelers now arrive at airports with a vast amount of content already available to them. Nonetheless, carefully curated inflight entertainment libraries continue to attract many eyeballs. Esdra Lamy, who serves as senior vice president of Warner Bros. Discovery, reckons that the “paradox of choice” is among the factors at play, insofar as an overload of choices on the ground can lead people to seek out the familiar when onboard aircraft.

That’s why the “best new-release theatrical films, which we’ve always provided to the marketplace” and which have always been sought-out by airline passengers since the early days of audio/video on demand, as well as “comfort food” type content still holds so much appeal, according to Lamy.

“So, people tend to watch a lot of the same stuff — that they watch over and over — on a flight, because again it’s comfort, something that they’re familiar with, and it gives them a sense of comfort as they fly,” says Lamy, who spoke with Runway Girl Network at the APEX/IFSA EXPO in Long Beach.

“Shows like Friends, on the series side as a sitcom, tend to be very, very popular. A lot of the more watchable movies that are popular on traditional platforms, whether that’s a streaming platform or even a cable network, tend to also resonate — from what we can see — in the same way on an airplane. So that’s why paradox of choice is that opportunity to watch something that you’re very comfortable with and bring it back to a place of familiarity.”

That’s especially true now that aviation is accelerating out of the Covid pandemic, and people who may not have flown in two or more years return to travel, he says.

[F]or those folks who have not been at an airport, who have not been on an airplane, in their mind, it’s almost like time stopped. And then, when they now are traveling in 2022, they’re expecting the same experience that they used to have and then some.

In the ever-popular new-release movie genre, there’s a relatively new lever that can be pulled to surprise and delight passengers, while helping them discover something they may not have seen before or indeed had the chance to view before their flight. That is the ability to quickly and exclusively premiere new content on IFE as part of a broader airline/studio promotion, and as facilitated by the cloud.

LATAM famously pulled this lever when it piped the first episode of the Sex and the City sequel And Just Like That to every Panasonic Avionics seatback IFE system onboard a flight from São Paulo to New York, just 24 hours after the show debuted on Warner Bros. Discovery-owned HBO Max — a stark contrast to the time-consuming past processes used to bring new entertainment content to IFE. Meanwhile, influencers onboard the aircraft helped to drive significant dialog about the promotion on social media.

This rapid turnaround of content was possible because the studio, LATAM, and the airline’s content service provider, Touch, worked closely together, and because the ABOVE-branded cloud platform brought to market by Touch and its joint venture partner castLabs can encode movie titles on the spot. A secure workflow on ABOVE, meanwhile, ensures that the encrypted asset can move from the studio to the aircraft without anyone watching it.

“We did a takeover of every screen, every seatback on the plane. In the first class, they got to have Dior cosmetics and perfume handed to them. In the back of the plane and throughout the whole plane, they got to experience the Magnolia Bakery, which is a piece of history when it comes to And Just Like That from the Sex and the City days,” explains Lamy.

“So those are some of the unique things that we look to do for getting the product onboard sooner with our partners that are ready to meet us there.”

The back of a LATAM passengers head as he watches the newest episode of Sex and The City on the seatback IFE.On the heels of this successful promotion, Warner Bros. Discovery and its partners this summer followed it up “and have done something on a bigger scale with House of the Dragon where this time we did it with three aircraft coming out of South America going into Madrid and three different cities… Everyone received a dragon egg around the theme, of course, of House of the Dragon. So these type of activations are very exciting to us.”

Lamy continues: “We’re very excited because our audience is the airline’s audience and so we feel the audience travels regardless of what platform — if they can get the best content, they’re more than ready to engage with it — so we’ll look forward to doing more of these type of activations.”

We’ll look forward to bringing more unique experiences into this space. Things around sweepstakes that we’ve looked at, at times, so we’re super excited there’s so many different avenues to travel down within the wealth of content that we have. And certainly, as long as an airline is willing to meet us there and our partner is involved in that, then we’re more than open to exploring just about everything.

The introduction of this, as Touch refers to it, ‘hybrid cached-streaming’ solution, where the content is encoded and securely and quickly ferried to server hardware on aircraft, comes at a time when many aircraft in the world fleet carry inflight connectivity, and more IFC installs are in the offing. Yet most connected aircraft still don’t support a free streaming class of Internet service for all passengers, which would enable them to avail of their own OTT subscriptions.


In a prior interview with RGN, Touch vice president of business development and co-managing director at ABOVE, André Valera suggested that it still makes sense to offer passengers new, but cached content from a server rather than consume costly bandwidth. But he noted that onboard connectivity can and will play a role in these airline/studio promotions, both in terms of engagement and subscriber acquisition.

For Lamy, it’s about “taking the experience above and beyond” having a slate of great movies onboard.

“What makes it a unique experience: when I come off a plane, yes, the guy next to me may have been snoring, but boy was this experience phenomenal because I watched a movie that really got me so engaged that I didn’t know anything that was happening around me. And that’s the role we play in the content space with our airline partners, is really being that great distraction that allows the passengers to be fully immersed into their own little bubble while within the most frankly captive audience, which is inside of an airplane.”

He explains more fully in the following video interview.

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Featured image credited to APEX. Embedded image of HBO Max content on LATAM’s IFE screens credited to Touch.