Watching Internet TV at 35,453 ft.

By 12/07/2007
Watching Internet TV at 35,453 ft.

On my trip back to New York from LA, after an eventfull night at The Winnies, I flew Virgin America.  I heard speak that the airlines piloted the most geek-friendly things with wings, and I had visions of a little Podcamp in the sky. It was nice and all, but reports of its techiness, and comfort, were drastically overrated.

I prefer the legroom of a Buick’s backseat to my knees kicking up against retro-futuristic, hard-plastic magazine holders, and most of the cool digital hook-ups are either currently inoperable, or no one was using them. Ethernet access at your seat and other goodies are supposedly coming in 2008, but the in-flight chat room that’s already up-and-running had one person in it during the entire four-hour 45-minute flight. That passenger’s handle was “milehigh josh” (Hint: it was me).

However, their on-board entertainment was expansive. Among their varied moving picture offerings was Boing Boing TV. Check out my tour:

In the living room, television most likely plays a more dominant role in delivering entertainment than the web. At 35,435 ft., it’s an equal playing field, on which there should be more players. ###

Seated on a flight across the continent, two feet from a video monitor is the perfect mix between a “lean back” and “lean forward” experience that so many technology evangelists and manufacturers have been preaching and trying to produce. Everything is on the same screen, making it just as easy to watch Xeni Jardin as it is Billy Nye.  In fact, it’s even easier to watch Jardin, because she’s on-demand – to catch Bill Nye you have to be flying at the right time.

When it first launched, we weren’t impressed with the video effort from “a directory of wonderful things,” but by focusing more on on-location interviews as opposed to apparent in-studio repetitions of their text blog, the talkie side of Boing Boing has become another entertaining source for internet awesome and interesting.

I know all this because I watch way too much programming on the web, but your average passenger on Virgin America doesn’t and hasn’t had any exposure to Boing Boing, nor its video counterpart. This is a fantastic way to give them some.

Launched by the Richard Branson-owned airline last October, the initiative to showcase web shows in the air has grown to include shorts from Campus MovieFest and a recent deal with Kate Modern for Virgin’s Atlantic wing, but it’s not without faults. The episode choices are limited – only four installments of BBTV were available – the interface is cumbersome, and the branding needs work – I’d create a totally separate category called something like “Hit Web Shows.”  But the videos play, and in terms of promoting the medium, I think it will do a lot.

Since Virgin America chose San Francisco as its US hub, it’s solicited the tech community for support. Now, it’s time for the online video community to reach out to them. Hey Revision3, Next New Networks, For Your Imagination, Vuguru, My Damn Channel, Super Deluxe, independent content producers, talent management companies, and anyone else producing web video. Get your shows up on Virgin America! If their history is any indicator, they’ll be receptive.

A daily audience of several thousand jet-setting individuals that’s captive for five hours in front of a screen where your shows are as easy to watch as traditional television is exactly what we’ve all been waiting for. Use it. The sky’s the limit.