Dish Serves Free Live TV, VOD to Southwest Flyers

Southwest Airlines announced Tuesday that it has outfitted about 75% of its fleet to support “TV Flies Free,” a live TV and on-demand streaming service sponsored by Dish Network that runs on iOS and other, select Wi-Fi-connected devices.

The free service, which requires customers to use their own devices and is currently available on more than 400 Southwest aircraft, is starting off with access to 75 VOD titles and a lineup of live TV channels that includes Bravo, CNBC, Fox 5 New York (WNYW), Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Golf Channel, (when games are available), MSNBC, NBC 4 (WNBC), NFL Network, Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel.

The arrangement with Dish amounts to another free perk for Southwest, which provides Internet connectivity on flights in partnership with Row 44, a satellite-based in-flight Wi-Fi services company. Southwest typical sells in-flight Wi-Fi for $8 per device, but is waiving the fee when customers use Wi-Fi to stream Dish video.

“Customers do not have to purchase WiFi to access the free TV package,” Southwest marketing manager Angela Vargo  noted in this blog post about the Dish partnership, noting that the in-flight IP video system employed by the airline relies on “single beam technology” that does not interfere with the available onboard Wi-Fi bandwidth.

“As we have stated before, we realize that WiFi performance has been a challenge at times and we are still working diligently to improve the quality of the product. We believe that, with the addition of free TV, we will provide a more balanced platform for both communications and entertainment onboard,” Vargo added. Southwest launched its in-flight, IP-based TV service last summer.

e launched TV last summer and we have been very pleased with the overall performance and Customer feedback on the product. Sometimes referred to as IPTV, this unique aspect of our satellite-based WiFi system allows for high-quality live television programming streamed - See more at:

Dish rival DirecTV offers live TV on select United Airlines and Frontier Airlines using seat-back displays, with charges running in the range of $5.99 to $7.99 depending on the length of the flight. DirecTV also works with JetBlue, proffering a mix of free network simulcasts and pay-for channels on seat-backs.

To kick off the TV Flies Free partnership, Dish’s “Boston Guys,” the gents Dish has tapped to promote the Hopper HD-DVR,  handed out free iPad 2 tablets to 130 Southwest customers flying from  Boston to Baltimore. As part of a new promo, Dish is also giving out 12,500 Southwest Rapid Reward Points and iPad 2 tablets to new Dish customers that sign up for the Hopper and a minimum of  Dish’s America’s Top 120 package, and agree to two-year service contract.