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Inmarsat to distribute films and TV programmes from this summer

Inmarsat today announced that it has struck a five-year agreement with NT Digital Partners to distribute films, television programmes as well as sports and news content to commercial ships via satellite broadband.

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The new service, called Fleet Media, is expected to be launched by July.

A monthly selection of Hollywood releases and TV packages will be sent to participating vessels over the Inmarsat network for ‘off-line’ viewing on PCs, laptops and tablets. The content will be securely downloaded and stored on the vessel’s Inmarsat iFUSION box. The box can incorporate a FleetBroadband terminal, a localized GSM network, an IP network router, firewall, proxy, and email system.

Fleet Media will be available via any Inmarsat broadband package and vessel owners will able to select from multiple tiered offerings. Ship owners subscribing to Fleet Media will be able to take it with them when they upgrade from one broadband service to another (e.g. FleetBroadband to XpressLink or XpressLink to Global Xpress).

Inmarsat told Digital Ship that it will be utilising network management tools and techniques to control the download and refresh of data to ensure that normal network efficiency and conditions are not degraded. Some of these will include the ability to transport low priority data during the periods when the network is underutilised.

The content packages will be created by NT Digital Partners, which is a joint venture between content agency Spafax and non-theatrical distributor Swank Motion Pictures. Spafax provides inflight entertainment for airlines including British Airways and Air Canada.

“Inmarsat is extremely excited by this agreement and the opportunities to bring more benefits to seafarers,” said Frank Coles, president, Inmarsat Maritime. “This service continues our commitment to welfare at sea.”

Inmarsat describes Fleet Media as a step-change improvement over traditional DVD distribution methods. Details of the offering will be disclosed at Inmarsat’s Maritime Conference in Florida in early May.

The service will be available to ship owners via their Inmarsat Distribution Partner (DP), with the streamed content specifically licensed and selected for commercial ships. Inmarsat told DS that the pricing will be based on the content provided and the refresh rates of that content, not the volume that is downloaded.

“Our unique and exclusive partnership with Inmarsat brings together the best of both worlds,” said Tim Swank, chairman of NT Digital Partners. “Inmarsat and NT Digital Partners are able to leverage Inmarsat's state-of-the-art satellite distribution network with NT Digital Partners’ streaming technology and our exclusive relationships with the Hollywood studios for a product that will forever change the crew member experience."

Another satcom provider, KVH, is also moving into content delivery, after it acquired Headland Media last year. Later this year, it plans to launch IP-MobileCast, which will deliver news, entertainment, sports, and training content directly to subscribing vessels over the top of the mini-VSAT Broadband connection using a separate data stream.

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