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As AT&T Makes Moves for DirecTV, Did Connected IFE Just Get a Whole Lot More Entertaining?

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UPDATE:…And now this is a thing.

Yesterday, financial news teased us with “informed” rumours that AT&T may acquire DirecTV.  Obviously, this acquisition, should it happen, has significant implications for the US communications and cable/satellite TV markets.  But could it also have implications for the skies?

At the beginning of this month, I wrote about AT&T/Honeywell’s plans to introduce an In-Flight Wi-Fi service for Skift.

Despite many discounting this as a late-entry into the inflight Wi-Fi game, and the indisputable fact that the game is played on a crowded pitch, it does seem that these two major players have a long-term strategy.

In a related article on Skift on the issue of Wi-Fi revenue, Chris Nurko of FutureBrand shared his insights with me on “Free-mium” services; specifically naming content as a solution.  “The airlines should focus on content for downloads and bespoke services,” Nurko said.

Buying DirectTV would complete the service platform for the AT&T/Honeywell on-board Wi-Fi product.

It might be that extra drip of water which saturates the ground and sets off a landslide in the commercial aviation connected IFE market in North America; and it could conceivably drip, drip, drip from there with repercussions which would affect the global market.

I’m not suggesting that AT&T would buy DirectTV only so that it could bundle entertainment content along with its Wi-Fi services to its target airline customers.  (Read all about who they surely will not be, according to what Honeywell definitely did not say, in the Skift article–but there’s a whole world of them, really.)

No, AT&T would not make an acquisition or base a business model on commercial aviation alone.  History proves that’s a losing proposition.  The long-game players in commercial aviation buffer themselves with their Defence and Aerospace products.

Airlines, though essential services, are not the only thing you want to hang your hat on if you intend to stay in business. AT&T knows this.

AT&T continues to creep towards a full reintegration from its former shattered self, bringing along new technologies introduced since the Big Breakup, to build a bigger stronger faster Momma Bell for a new millennium.

It’s like watching that fluid metal Terminator get smashed to bits by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2; only to build itself back up again coming back all the better for the process.

Of course, regulators are likely to see the Terminator analogy too, and this will be part of the fun in watching what comes next.

After all, there are already a number of consolidations which either have happened or are about to happen in the sectors which overlap here: Cable/Satellite Services, Aviation, Communications.

It’s sometimes hard to tell who’s the big bad wolf and who’s the underdog, because it’s so specific to which application of the technology you’re discussing.  The big picture is that big businesses are getting bigger.  Again.

Perhaps the time of industry breakups and shakeups is behind us.  Perhaps those concepts belong to an older generation.  We tried them on for size, and they didn’t quite fit, so we’re moving on.  I don’t know.  Ask an economist.  As a consumer, I feel this is where we’re headed.

That doesn’t imply that we can’t benefit from consolidated services from big players, speeding the pace of technological development thanks to their very deep pockets, but we fill those pockets.

Let’s leave the Economic philosophising to Adam Smith or Karl Marx; or any number of other very interesting thinkers.  They do it best.

All we can do here is look at a relatively very tiny market of a specific application of all this technological convergence.  If this plan by AT&T goes through, there will be big repercussions to the present market for connected IFE.  Perhaps they will not happen over-night.  But I’ve learned that aviation, for all its slow-moving procedures, can change surprisingly quickly–when it wants to or needs to.

I’m excited.  It will be a good show.  Breakout the popcorn.

 

 

 

 

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