ViaSat and fuboTV Execs Say IFC Partnership was Years in the Making
The video streaming distribution and technology partnership Viasat announced with fuboTV in February had been four years in the making, and shows Viasat’s In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) ambitions. Cristina Arango, director of strategic partnerships for fuboTV told Via Satellite that conversations started with Viasat around four years ago at CES.
“There were so many things we could do with Viasat. It was too hard for us to focus on one thing, as there were a number of exciting possibilities and partnership opportunities we could go after. We ultimately narrowed down and focused on the one in which we had the most mutual interest — bringing live TV streaming to 35,000 feet,” Arango said.
The partnership will leverage technology standards from the global technical association the Streaming Video Alliance, and apply them to IFC. These standards enable airlines that sign up for the Viasat/fuboTV partnership to make fuboTV’s live streaming premium Over-the-Top (OTT) and Video-on-Demand (VoD) sports, entertainment, and news programming available to all passengers, at no charge, on U.S. flights equipped with Viasat satellite internet.
Arango said fuboTV was interested in streaming in the aviation space, and looked to Viasat’s deal with JetBlue and Amazon as a pioneering example.
“We wanted to do something similar with our product, and bring live TV and OTT to consumers on board an aircraft,” she said. “There were a lot of moving pieces that needed to be figured out on the technology side and making sure it was possible. Live is a different type of streaming than VoD, so we wanted to make sure we were actually able to do it. We took our time to make sure the in-flight streaming experience for the passenger would be equally as good as what they experience with fuboTV on the ground.”
Arango said fuboTV isn’t currently focusing on other IFC deals, but didn’t rule it out for the future. She adds, “On the residential side, we have many deals with many internet providers, including our recently announced deal with Google Fiber. This partnership with Viasat is our first deal with satellite internet. And for a satellite internet provider, Viasat is the only company that I have had serious conversations with. It is not an exclusive partnership, but it is one we hope that will remain a good partnership for many years.”
From Viasat’s perspective, the deal became compelling once fuboTV expanded its content offerings. Grant Markhart, who works on strategic partnerships for Viasat said: “When we first met fuboTV, they were a soccer-only streaming package that only provided a limited number of channels. They eventually gravitated to a fuller OTT offering, and at the same time, we were getting enough scale in the U.S. aviation market where it would make sense to have this partnership come to fruition, and serve a number of broad markets. The technology components and the market components have been taking shape. I think in the last six months, all the pieces came together and fuboTV launched their sports network channel which took advantage of these new streaming protocols which made the whole thing come together nicely.”
Markhart said Viasat is looking to demonstrate that it will work with its partners in making investments to a service that both parties believe will serve passengers today, but will also be future proof for what they might want to offer passengers over the next five years.
“We are looking at the new ways business models for in-flight Wi-Fi and experiences can evolve, so free live streaming of sports or other content opportunities deliver value to airlines and their passengers. We have the bandwidth today to support free services at scale, and our bandwidth plans for tomorrow enable us to offer even more opportunities to airlines, passengers, and crew. Over the past few years, we have been looking for new creative, innovative partnerships such as Amazon, fuboTV and Apple Music – that focus on giving airlines and passengers services we believe they want. Specific with fuboTV, we recognize passengers want access to live sports when in-flight, and with fuboTV’s sports package, airlines can offer a variety of content. … We are trying to unlock these business models for our airline partners and their passengers,” he added.