Southwest Airlines preparing to offer football, baseball games via Wi-Fi
Southwest Airlines passengers may soon be able to watch baseball and football games while they fly.
The company developing Southwest's in-flight broadband entertainment platform is partnering with the National Football League and a division of Major League Baseball to live-stream programming from the leagues, which could lead to the ability of passengers to see games and highlights from their seats.
Row 44, the California-based satellite-delivered Internet access provider for Southwest planes, recently signed a deal with the NFL Network to deliver live and on-demand programming, including Thursday Night Football NFL games and the NFL RedZone Channel on Sundays.
In August, Row 44 issued a similar announcement regarding a partnership with Major League Baseball.
A Southwest spokeswoman said Monday the airline hadn't committed to any access agreements and had no announcements in connection with Row 44, but added "it's definitely an option for us."
Row 44 and Southwest are in the process of equipping all of the airline's Boeing 737-700 jets with the equipment to provide an in-flight Wi-Fi network that would enable passengers Internet access on their own laptops, tablets and smart phones.
Michelle Agnew, a Southwest spokeswoman, said about 175 of the airline's 372 737-700 jets had been equipped to provide Wi-Fi access and all the company's new jets, including larger -800 series planes, would have the system installed.
"We're open to the opportunity and excited about the possibility of our passengers being able to access games," Agnew said.
In the last few months, Southwest has enhanced its in-flight Wi-Fi portal to include some free offerings. Within the portal, users can access the southwest.com website, games, shopping and a flight tracker for free. Airline officials say they have enhanced the flight tracking program through a partnership with MapQuest.
Southwest currently is offering Internet access on Wi-Fi-equipped flights for $5 per one-way route, meaning that one charge is assessed despite a change of planes on the route. The airline also is offering free access to A-List Preferred members — the airline's best customers.
Southwest now has a web page on its site for passengers to determine whether a flight they're on will have Wi-Fi access. At www.southwest.com/wifi, passengers can check up to 24 hours before departure whether they're on a Wi-Fi flight by supplying a flight confirmation number, first and last name.
Row 44's partnership with the NFL will enable access to the NFL Network, which broadcasts 24 hours a day and includes original programming and live games. The NFL last week announced that it would expand its Thursday night football schedule next season.
The network also covers the NFL draft, the Hall of Fame ceremony and the NFL Scouting Combine. In addition, it offers NFL RedZone on Sundays, a channel that moves from stadium to stadium, broadcasting teams as they get within the 20-yard line and are on the verge of scoring.
The arrangement also will enable passengers to access the network's video-on-demand library.
Row 44's partnership with Major League Baseball will include live streaming of video and audio broadcasts of more than 2,400 games a season.
Southwest already is a major advertiser on NFL and Major League Baseball broadcasts and sponsors some professional baseball and basketball teams in markets it serves.