Plane Truth About NBC Universal in the Air

Flying in to LA for the semi-annual TCA press tour was like one big promo for NBC Universal. That’s because I flew in on American Airlines,which has a deal to show NBC Universal content on their airlines. The 737 I jetted in on did not have those cool new individual plasma screens on the seat backs, which allows passengers to channel hop and choose between movies and TV shows (as they can on most Air Canada flights to the coast). Instead, it featured a bunch of old-fashioned analog TV sets handing from the ceiling down the centre of the aircraft. Passengers are a captive audience, just like they were in the old three network days, except on AA, there is only one network: NBC. It’s like being at the cottage, except at 35,000 feet and the septic tank works.
The video pushed the entire family of NBC networks, including cable channels such as Bravo, Syfy, the Weather Network, Telemundo, MSNBC and others. They all got plenty of promo time in the air, all the way from Dallas to LA.
Between episodes of NBC comedies such as 30 Rock and The Office were relentless promotions for fall shows like Community, new summer offerings like Merlin or The Philanthropist (but nothing on, well, The Listener) and especially promo after promo for NBC’s big new 10 p.m. gamble, The Jay Leno Show. We saw clips of Leno setting up a bit about photo booths and then saw several young couples going in to have their pictures taken in funny ways. Not having sprung the two dollars for headphones, I’m sure I missed some hilarious stuff, but the whole deal looked very much like Just Four Laughs Gags.
Other NBC deals getting some promo time was Saturday Night Live (A Barry Gibb Show spoof starring Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake) and Fallon’s own new late night series. A long CNBC doc on Oprah Winfrey seemed a year or two out of date. There was a Monk teaser, another glimpse of Leno, a scene from Parks and Recreation.
I guess it all made me want to catch up on episodes of 30 Rock I have missed, but it was interesting to see how many passengers turned away from the overhead screens and start streaming whatever they had with them on their laptops or iphones. Even on planes with one channel there are alternatives. Nothing is “must see” anymore–even in the friendly skies.

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