Gogo is pricing its IPO today (Update: it launches at $17 per share) after shelving its original plans.
Since I introduced new potential passenger experience and IFEC economic models in late 2009 that could capitalize on the coming growth in digital media and mobile technology, leverage the “60-hour cycle” of passenger engagement opportunity, and encourage airlines to “think outside the flight”, about 70 airlines and others with vested IFEC interests (Gogo, Panasonic, Amazon, etc) have talked with us or viewed them to inform their own strategies.
Progress has been good, and credit airlines and Gogo for improving a previously customer-challenged experience (when’s the last time you saw SkyMall online?) The “Think outside the flight” ecosystem has improved as well, with iPads at airport gates, food-ordering capability, etc.
But financial investors should consider a few key things:
1) Gogo’s penetration strategy in cutting deals with most domestic airlines has worked brilliantly, but the model is still based on paid WiFi, countering larger consumer trends toward free WiFi.
2) Employers may still be showing willingness to pay, but what is the elasticity of that pricing and demand?
3) How much of Gogo’s revenue growth is result of increased passenger demand per flight, or just additional plane installs?
4) Gogo’s product does not provide capacity for what passengers really want – streaming video and uninterrupted internet service
5) This is caused by constraints inherent in Gogo’s ATG model, which airlines adopted primarily because installation took only one night and cost half of Row 44’s satellite install cost (even though Gogo financed much of it).
7) However, investors should consider when the continuous capital investment cycle will ever allow the product to command pricing necessary to deliver a healthy marginal profit, or whether it will result in a marginal loss (see graph to right)
8) Is IPO capital actually going to fund capital investment for an unproven long-term profitability model or return capital to earlier equity investors and management?
9) In conjunction, since Gogo also just took out a $11o+ Million line of credit, it will be prudent to watch its capital structure over time
10) Will product suppliers – namely entertainment industry content owners – will provide attractive enough margins given the battles they’re engaging in with Netflix, Amazon, etc? My original model suggested customer acquisition relationships with the new digital media firms as they compete for share, so going it alone in dealing with Hollywood may not work
11) Will (or When will) the consolidated airlines, if Gogo’s profitability becomes attractive enough, decide to take a larger piece for themselves?
So it’s certainly interesting, and Gogo and its partner airlines have done a great job trying to deliver a better passenger experience, but the investor viewpoint may require a different lens.
Amazon launches bold digital media expansion. Airlines (and hotels) – don’t wait until travelers get on the plane…
Amazon has dominated the eBook market with its Kindle, is vertically integrating into eBook publishing, and as anticipated, today it launched its new Kindle lineup, clearly targeted to take on Apple and Google’s Android marketplace in the broader digital media industry.
Consumers will have 4 dominant hardware options with Apple, Android devices, Amazon, and Microsoft – if it can get its tablet and Windows Phone act together (don’t underestimate its Nokia deal prematurely) to leverage a 35-Million-strong Xbox Live base.
All zeroed in on using that hardware penetration to sell digital media content and services, so virtually any traveler carrying a device will have unprecedented access to huge libraries of content only 1-touch away.
So beating the drum again (see articles below) – while the in-flight product is clearly improving, airlines, Gogo, and Row 44 (as well as international services) need to think outside the flight and use their primary advantage – the itinerary – the holy grail of any merchandiser.
Could the new Android market and cutthroat digital media industry ground the new Gogo before take-off, and what can airlines do?
I noted previously that the transformation of Gogo’s and airlines’ approach to in-flight WiFi and entertainment is a positive step for consumer experience and, depending on how well they execute, potentially economically beneficial. Gogo has done an admirable job aggregating airline passengers to create a potentially effective channel and opportunity, and Row44 seems to have an updated focus on consumer content experience.
However, it seems their plans – publicized as of this week’s APEX conference in Seattle anyway – may risk not getting off the ground as much as anticipated if they and airlines do not continue to take steps to compete in a fast-moving digital media industry.
That’s right – the broader Digital Media Industry.
This is not just In-Flight Entertainment and Connectivity (IFEC) anymore. A new, less-myopic mindset is needed.
In late 2009, I began looking for gaps in the travel market where mobile technology could deliver new opportunities, and I zeroed in on emerging markets for airline ancillary “merchandising,” and digital media technology, concluding that streaming in-flight entertainment could be a greater revenue driver than Aircell’s and Row 44’s paid WiFi approach – and deliver a better experience for travelers.
Ancillary revenue in the form of controversial baggage fees was, frankly, low-hanging fruit and warranted in many ways. But given airlines’ lack of core competency in merchandising, we seem to be hearing a “sell, sell, sell” approach and travelers characterized as a “captive market” rather than consumers that pay for and deserve a great in-flight experience. While the opportunity is good, it could be more rewarding to devise strategy from a consumer perspective.
The potential upshot? Gain advantage, deliver a positive traveler experience, and drive more WiFi engagement and merchandising revenue with customer acquisition models to finance WiFi rather than paid WiFi and paid download models.
Here is Part I of the presentation from January, 2010.
In December, 2010, I took an updated look on progress in the industry and observed that there is still much opportunity to deliver a better experience and differentiate competitively:
Here is Part II: