Viasat has teamed up with fuboTV to offer over-the-top video streaming of sports, news and other programs to commercial airline passengers.
The partnership furthers Viasat bid to boost usage of its satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi, which currently powers on-board Internet for passengers on American Airlines, JetBlue and United Airlines aircraft, as well as other commercial airlines globally.
The fuboTV deal is new. Financial terms weren't disclosed. None of Viasat's airline customers have signed up for the service yet, which is only available on flights within the U.S.
But the partnership is believed to be the first over-the-top Internet TV streaming service specifically targeted toward airline passengers.
"One of the reasons fuboTV is really interesting to us is sports," said Grant Markhart, who works in strategic partnerships for Viasat. "Live sports drive a lot of demand. fuboTV offers a pretty large sports package. One of the ways we can show off our technology advantages is to demonstrate to people they can watch live sports in-flight."
The Viasat/fuboTV partnership is similar to a sponsored content program from American Airlines that lets Apple Music subscribers stream songs without paying for in-flight Wi-Fi.
With fuboTV, airlines can sign up to offer the streaming TV service on their Viasat-equipped aircraft. Passengers will receive free access to fuboTV 's Sports Network channel, which has limited content, without having to pay for in-flight Wi-Fi.
In addition, passengers with fuboTV accounts will have full access to all the channels in their subscription package. And airline passengers who are not subscribers can sign up in-flight for a free seven-day trial, which will give them immediate access to fuboTV's sports channels and video-on-demand shows, also at no charge for Wi-Fi.
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"We're focused on delivering the best live TV and sports streaming service to our customers anywhere, and now that includes at 35,000 feet," said Cristina Arango, director of strategic partnerships for fuboTV.
Based in New York, fuboTV provides over-the-top video streaming with a focus on sports, news and movies. Its base subscription package is $55 per month and features more than 100 channels, including international soccer and regional sports networks, as well as a growing number of national sports networks. The privately held company has raised $250 million to date.
Viasat's satellite Internet powers in-flight Wi-Fi on 1,379 commercial aircraft, with about 690 additional airplanes in the pipeline for installation of antennas and other Viasat gear to enable Internet service in the air.
With its in-flight Wi-Fi technology, the Carlsbad company touts fast download speeds that can support high-definition video streaming to each passenger - at lower cost per bit than rival providers. fuboTV tested the Viasat's service, unbeknownst to the company initially, on currently flying aircraft to make sure it met quality standards.
While JetBlue offers in-flight Wi-Fi to passengers for free, most other airlines charge a fee. But Viasat and airlines have been exploring ways to take advantage of in-flight connectivity to offer new features without a Wi-Fi charge, such as the Apple Music and now fuboTV programs.
"We have already demonstrated - with our partnership with JetBlue - that we can give away Internet (service) at scale," said Markhart. "People can stream video or do whatever they want to do in the air. The next step for us is to demonstrate that we continue to invest not only in our network but also in our partner's business models to bring new services to their passengers."
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