All throughout the past month, we’ve covered the World Cup ratings bonanza for broadcasters from ABC, ESPN and Univision in the U.S., to BBC One, ARD, ZDF, and TF1 in Europe, among others. While we know a lot of those numbers don’t take into account folks watching in bars, cafés and town squares, what about fans who were in the air? The sky as a content destination is a fast-growing business with companies like Global Eagle, Gogo and Panasonic Avionics connecting entertainment and airline passengers in new ways. In a historic first, and courtesy of Panasonic’s in-flight Sport 24 channel, Sunday’s World Cup final was shown live by nine international carriers. According to the company, Germany’s defeat of Argentina was seen by 40,000 people, 35,000 feet above Earth. Bloomberg reports the figure is a record for a live in-flight TV broadcast. Throughout the World Cup and across such carriers as Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Emirates, Panasonic estimated that 1.5M passengers will have seen the tournament live on its systems. The matches were delivered over satellite WiFi and shown free of charge — in all classes. Carriers in the U.S. also allowed travelers to watch many of the matches via traditional satellite TV services from DirecTV and Dish Network, Forbes reported. ESPN is beamed directly to seat back televisions in many aircraft, but not ABC which showed many weekend games and the final.
The struggling TV manufacturers will still sell their own sets. But the collaboration could result in a manufacturing process that would make the super thin and vivid but pricey organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays more affordable. Until this year, OLED was only available in the U.S. on screens smaller than 20 inches. But Samsung and LG plan to bring the technology — which doesn’t require a back light — to large sets. Apple’s also widely believed to be eyeing OLED displays for its TV set. The consumer electronics industry is eager for OLED to catch on: Worldwide TV shipments declined 8% in Q1 vs the same period last year, with LCD displays down for the first time ever, research firm NPD DisplaySearch reported last week. This is the first time that Sony and Panasonic have collaborated on TV set development. Here’s their release:
The 3D broadcasts will come a day after the events, and won’t include everything. Still, this is the first time the the Olympics will be available here in 3D. NBC will offer more than 200 hours of 3D broadcasts to every pay TV service. It will be produced by Olympic Broadcasting Services and include the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, gymnastics, diving and swimming. The announcement at the 2012 International CES follows last year’s vow by Panasonic, an official Olympic partner, to make the games in London the first in 3D. Panasonic also will be the only company advertising flat-panel HDTV sets and Blu-ray players on NBC’s Olympic broadcasts. “NBC has a history of utilizing technological innovations to distribute the Olympics in new ways for viewers,” says NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel. “We are proud to continue that tradition by partnering with Panasonic and Olympic Broadcasting Services to distribute the first 3D broadcast of the Games in the U.S. in partnership with our multichannel video programming distributors.”
We’ll see whether the entertainment industry can gin up some big news at this week’s 2012 International CES for its UltraViolet streaming initiative — such as an alliance with a major retailer. But for now, this is what we’ve got: Panasonic will load its Viera Connect TV sets and Blu-ray players with connections to Warner Bros’ Flixster. The entertainment company wants its Web destination to become the chief gateway for consumers to stream movies after they buy discs that include UltraViolet access rights. Warner says that there’ve been 50M downloads of the Flixster app for Android, Blackberry and iPad devices.