Aviation News

March 14, 2014

JetBlue to Spin-Off IFE Provider LiveTV

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Written by: Ken McQuillan
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LiveTVLogoNew York City based JetBlue Airways announced on Thursday that they have reached an agreement to sell their LiveTV subsidiary to Thales Group for a cash price of $400 million. LiveTV is the provider of  the live in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems used by JetBlue and several other carriers. The sale is expected to close by mid-2014. JetBlue CFO Mark Powers said in a statement, “This transaction, once completed, preserves JetBlue’s access to the most innovative inflight entertainment. At the same time, we believe JetBlue will benefit from the reduced operating costs and capital expenditures related to running LiveTV as a subsidiary.”

Robin Hayes, President of JetBlue also said in a statement “LiveTV has been an important part of building the JetBlue experience. Their ability to combine market leadership and drive technological advances has given JetBlue a market advantage in the onboard experience.” JetBlue purchased LiveTV in September of 2002 in order to gain control of what has become one of JetBlue’s signature in-flight offerings. LiveTV is installed in all of JetBlue’s aircraft, and currently provides passengers with live television through DirecTV, in addition to satellite radio through SiriusXM.

JetBlue is in the process of rolling out their new in-flight wi-fi service, called Fly-Fi. JetBlue promises that Fly-Fi will provide passengers with internet speeds that are comparable to their broadband speed at home, which will be on the order of eight times faster than inflight products offered by other airlines. The faster speeds and increased bandwidth are made possible by utilizing high-speed Ka-band satellite connectivity provided by LiveTV and satellite provider ViaSat.

Thales Group, a French aerospace and defense company, is purchasing LiveTV to bolster its position in a rapidly growing sector. Jean-Bernard Levy, the Chairman and CEO of Thales said in a statement, “LiveTV is a great strategic fit for Thales. It will improve our positioning in the high growth business of in-flight entertainment and connectivity.” Levy went on to say, “Our aim is to offer the highest performance, and most competitive and flexible connectivity solution to airlines regardless of their fleet size, aircraft type or route structure.”

As this transaction closes, JetBlue will enter into long term agreements with LiveTV to continue providing support for its live television and internet services. LiveTV was founded in Melbourne, Florida in 1998. Originally a joint venture between Harris Corporation and BE Aerospace, Thales later purchased BE’s stake. JetBlue purchased LiveTV from Thales and Harris in 2002 for approximately $80 million. LiveTV’s  systems are installed in over 700 aircraft around the world, not only for JetBlue, but also Frontier, AirTran, Alitalia, Virgin Blue, WestJet, United and Azul. LiveTV has maintenance and support facilities around the globe, employing around 450 people.

Ken McQuillan is a contributor to NYCAviation.com and an aerial photojournalist. He is based in Detroit, Michigan. Follow Ken on twitter: @FlyingCinematog



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