By: Paul Bond

News Corp. Teams With Rockwell On Venture

by Paul Bond

(The Hollywood Reporter) News Corp. on Thursday unveiled details
of its joint effort with Rockwell International Corp. to put Internet
access and live television on commercial airlines.

News Corp. and Rockwell’s electronic equipment division, Rockwell
Collins, announced in March their creation of a new company known
as In-Flight Network LLC. IFN gave dozens of journalists a sneak
peek Wednesday at the product via plane rides from Mercury Air
Center in Burbank.

IFN is competing with another startup company, Connexion, which is
also racing to hook airline passengers into television and the
Internet. Connexion is a joint effort from the Boeing Co., Loral
Space & Communications, Matsushita, Mitsubishi, Alenia and
Finmeccanica SpA.

Boeing has estimated that the market for such a service will reach
$70 billion within the decade.

IFN chief and News Corp. Senior Vice President Jeffrey Wales said
he expects to offer IFN’s service commercially by the fourth
quarter of 2001 and is primarily targeting frequent fliers who
wouldn’t balk at paying a monthly subscription fee of $20 or more.

In addition to the ability to surf the Internet, check e-mail and instant-message from air to ground and from one airplane to
another, the IFN service will allow passengers to watch live
televised sporting events and a wide array of prerecorded
entertainment. Airlines also will be able to customize the
programming per flight and on short notice while inserting ads
based on various criteria, so passengers headed to New York might
see an ad for a Broadway show, while those headed to Las Vegas
might see an ad for ‘Siegfried and Roy.’ Airlines might even be
able to send one set of commercials to its first-class passengers
and a different set to its coach passengers.

Wales wouldn’t say how much News Corp. is spending on the venture.
Airlines that become ‘network affiliates’ might share in revenue
generated from the service and receive the equipment and maintenance

‘The airlines are direct profit and equity participants,’ Wales

Some airlines might offer computers at seats, while others might
offer the connectivity and let passengers supply their own laptop
computers, Wales said.

As for live events like sports and concerts, IFN still needs to
work out rights issues, Wales said. ‘But once we get the rights,
sponsors will pay,’ he said.

IFN is employing technology already in use by News Corp.’s satellite
TV divisions as well as satellite technology and components provided
by Globalstar and Qualcomm.


(c) Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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