Tuned In

Air Peacock: NBC Finds Last Captive Audience

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Time Inc. has a corporate-travel deal with American Airlines, which, in the old days, used to mean that, when I would fly out to L.A. for an interview or set visit, I would finally catch up on Everybody Loves Raymond, via the CBS-produced in-flight entertainment for AA. 

Now NBC Universal has announced a deal that may find me confronting Knight Rider or Crusoe on future coastal business trips, should they (or I) last so long. NBCU has contracted with American to provide 90-minute TV-and-film segments, putting Ben Silverman’s programming in front of a valuable audience who can’t dive for the exits. 

But how many people actually pay attention to inflight entertainment reels anymore? Airline amusement is more a la carte now than it used to be. The last time I flew American, in December, I spent the entire flight immersed on my self-provided screens as long as battery life would allow: first my iPhone, then my laptop, on which I surfed the Internet on the optional in-flight wi-fi, at least on the one leg of the trip when it worked. 

Personally I’d take wireless service (even at the discounted charge of about $10 a pop) over an inflight movie or sitcom anyday, supplemented by my own DVDs. Then again, I’m one of those obnoxious people who brings along my own elaborate homemade sandwiches whenever I fly. (Returning from L.A., I have been known to buy a couple animal-style In-N-Out burgers and stash them in my carry-on, safe food handling be damned.)

Beyond that, I enjoy the seatback TV in JetBlue when I’m able to fly it, but I’m sure NBC prefers that American flyers not have more options to tune elsewhere. (They have that problem bad enough when it comes to terrestrial TV watching.) As for the rest of you: what do you like to do for in-flight entertainment?