Packing the Seats: How Live In-Flight Sports is Helping Airlines Make a Comeback

Panasonic Avionics< Panasonic Avionics
11/18/22 4 MIN READ

There’s nothing like the spirit of competition, thrill of a buzzer-beater, or passion of a game-winning goal. Live sports is an incredibly unique form of content, especially for airline passengers. Even the biggest Hollywood blockbuster on an IFE screen can’t replicate the unpredictability of watching a game unfold live.

Watchers of live sports span gender and age groups, whether it’s watching a game at home with friends and family or catching what’s on at a local sports bar. It wasn’t long ago that airline flights were one of the last unconnected spaces when it comes to live sports. But that’s all changing says Dominic Green, Senior Director of Product Line Management at Panasonic Avionics.

“With the expectation of instant gratification and the proliferation of always-connected information streams, showing live sports on board brings the in-air experience closer to the expectations consumers have on the ground,” observes Green. “Airlines can help their passengers never miss a moment with live sports on board.”

But live, in-flight sports isn’t just about passenger experience and excitement. Live sports IFE investments can in fact help airlines’ bottom lines. And as travel begins to bounce back, Panasonic is helping to bring back flyers by working with our entire ecosystem of customers and partners to show the next big game live and in-flight.

The Impact of Live Sports on Passenger Experience

Whether in-flight or on the ground, the ability to watch the events of a live sporting match unfold is truly a unique experience. And that powerful experience is translated with higher viewership.

“We have seen that, especially around national and global competitions, viewership can jump tenfold,” says Green. “World Cup matches, for example, have seen four out of every five screens tuned in.”

“The ability to watch live events as they unfold is an experience that can’t be replicated. To harness that ability – and to take credit for it as an airline that provides access to these unmissable moments – is extremely powerful for curators of the passenger experience,” he continues.

Social media and live mentions are also a great way for airlines to gauge customer sentiment in real-time as people react and respond with peers to moments in the biggest games at 30,000 feet in the air. But the true test is seeing live television offerings start to work their way into passengers’ booking considerations.

Live Sports Attracts All Passengers

While airlines might think that live sports only cater to the male demographic, existing data supports that an increased focus on live sports will attract a wider array of passengers. For instance, a recent study by NYU found that women are extremely engaged with sports as active consumers.

While women account for roughly 40 percent of the overall sports viewership market, nearly half of all NFL merchandise is purchased by females, and furthermore, about 80 percent of all sports apparel sales are conducted with women. So as live sports returns, airlines can capitalize on attracting both males and females back with the prospect of never missing a moment of their favorite team or sport.

“But aside from the gender divide, the return of live sport has reminded us all that there’s just no comparison, even with the seemingly endless content availability that streaming services provide, to watching events unfold live, as they happen,” Green observes.

Operational Benefits of Live Sports

At Panasonic, viewing live sports is a core passenger engagement offering alongside live news and the oft-expected blockbuster film catalog. It’s far from just another entertainment option for passengers, access to real-time sporting content can positively impact tangible metrics and budgetary efficiency.

“Live content is unmissable, and the must-see element can mean changing the way airlines think about appropriating content budgets,” Green explains.

And with all the different ways to engage with content — and the proliferation of where passengers can find it — it’s no longer a requirement to devote budgets to building the most massive video on-demand library.

“More time spent engaging with other content experiences like maps or live television means less time and resources that airlines need to allocate in pursuing giant, expensive libraries of content,” notes Green.

For airlines, live sports can also fill in the gaps in terms of movie and television content release schedules.

“Through our partnership with IMG,s Sport 24 and Sport 24 Extra remain a core offering and are perhaps even more important due to the shifts we’re seeing in the Hollywood release window, and the freshness of theatrical content,” Green continues.

“We see a future where budgets will be adjusted to consider live TV as a part of that offering.”

Turn on any game or match and it’s clear that live sports are returning in full force. Stadiums and stands are packed and fans are enthusiastic about a potential return to normalcy. Airlines are in a perfect position to capitalize on this pent-up demand and cater to all demographics with increasingly broad live sports offerings that combine the excitement of both traveling to a destination and taking in those unmissable sports moments.

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