Amazon is teaming up with American budget airline JetBlue to bring free video streaming to the in-flight entertainment mix.
Launching later this year, this will be one of the first times a mainstream video service such as Amazon’s has been added as a service to in-flight entertainment. It will be enabled by JetBlue’s free onboard Wi-Fi service “Fly-Fi“.
It’s worth noting that passengers will still require their own devices to consume the content, be it a laptop, mobile phone, or tablet. There won’t be a full integration of Amazon’s content into the plane’s little screens on the back of each seat. That said, the deal will see some promotional content from Amazon’s own slate of original shows land directly in the in-flight entertainment, including interviews, behind-the-scenes snippets, and previews.
While Amazon Instant Video viewers could already download content to their devices for offline viewing, that would mean knowing in advance what they wanted to watch. Now, anyone can browse thousands of titles and decide on the spot what they want to watch.
Wi-Fi has been steadily creeping into the service offerings of various airlines in recent times, but the airlines often restrict bandwidth-thirsty streaming services such as Netflix, HBO Go, and YouTube. This has also been the case with JetBlue, which has required travelers to pay for its premium “Fly-Fi Plus” service to stream video. Now, however, Prime subscribers will be able to stream video at no extra cost on JetBlue airplanes.
For the uninitiated, Prime Instant Video is a Netflix-style service that offers a limited number of TV shows and movies as part of a broader subscription; it usually doesn’t include the latest Hollywood releases. However, arguably the bigger news here is that Amazon’s broader on-demand “Instant” service, which lets users rent or buy the latest-release titles on an individual basis, is also being made available across JetBlue’s free Wi-Fi tier.
And that’s not all. Prime subscribers will also be able to listen to Prime Music, which offers around one million songs to stream. Shoppers can also buy and download songs from Amazon Music, access eBooks from the Kindle store, and earn JetBlue’s TrueBlue loyalty points when shopping in specific categories on Amazon.
JetBlue’s Wi-Fi offering uses satellites to serve up high-speed Internet access. For the initial rollout with Amazon later this year, it will be available on all JetBlue’s Airbus A321 and A320 aircrafts, followed by its Embraer E190 aircraft in 2016.
Launched in 2005, Amazon’s annual Prime subscription was initially all about offering free two-day shipping, making it a particularly good option for those who bought a lot of items through Amazon. The company has been throwing more and more incentives into the mix, though, to encourage users to cough up the $100 annual fee.
In addition to Prime Instant Video, Amazon has introduced an ad-free music-streaming service, unlimited cloud storage for photos, and a so-called “ethical” own-brand line of products. Amazon has also been ramping up its same-day shipping offering, and added one-hour deliveries to the mix.
Now anyone is able to stream online movies and TV shows through JetBlue at no extra cost beyond that of a Prime subscription or per-title rental fee, further cementing Amazon’s position in the entertainment realm.
JetBlue carries north of 32 million flyers a year, and although it does serve some international territories it is largely focused on the U.S. And this is a key point here. Given that Amazon negotiates rights with studios to stream movies and TV shows on a country-by-country basis, this is likely why it chose to partner with a largely domestic airline — if it had partnered with a more “global” airline, this would probably have caused it a major contractual headache.
At any rate, with in-flight on-demand video streaming rolling out at no extra cost, Amazon Prime is perhaps now too good to ignore, if it wasn’t already.