This article first appeared in the Railway-News magazine, Issue 1 2023.
Demand for rail travel is growing, driven in part because rail is the sustainable choice.
As rail travellers return after Covid, they come with new expectations – developed as they filled time at home watching video streaming services. Rail operators can take this opportunity to re-invent the onboard experience, offering passengers the option of watching their favourite streaming services while they travel.
The global passenger rail transportation market is expected to reach $307 billion in 2025, despite a recent 70% average drop in ridership due to the pandemic. One of the drivers is the focus on choosing sustainable modes of travel. A recent report by the European Environmental Agency (EEA) concluded that rail travel is the best and most sensible mode of travel, apart from walking or cycling. The report says that a shift from air to rail travel can play a key role in meeting the goals of the European Green Deal, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 90% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. To support this shift, some European countries are banning domestic shorthaul air travel when rail is an available alternative.
This presents a challenge and an opportunity for rail operators. If passengers are forced to choose rail, it will be all the more important to give them a satisfying travel experience. Two technology-driven trends combine to present a great opportunity for 38 rail operators: the consumer switch from TV to video streaming services, and new edge caching technology that can bring video streaming to consumers on trains and, at the same time, improve Wi-Fi performance.
Returning travellers are coming back with new entertainment desires. As far back as May 2021, Neilsen reported that streaming platforms pulled in a bigger share of viewers’ time than broadcast networks. This switch was further fuelled while consumers stayed at home during Covid, and streaming providers pushed to deliver more and more new and exclusive content. In their Media Nations: UK 2022, Ofcom found that “Subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services like Netflix and Disney+ were used by 67% of UK households by Q2 2022.” And while this was a slight decline from the height of the pandemic, “Collectively, these services have broadly retained their share of viewing after achieving a surge in take-up in 2020, accounting for 18% of total TV viewing in 2021 (19% in 2020), or an average of 58 minutes viewing per person per day.” As consumers increasingly turn to their streaming subscriptions for entertainment – from Netflix to Disney+ to Amazon Prime, they are also expecting to be able to watch these subscriptions wherever they go. According to Conviva State of Streaming report, video streaming time on mobile phones jumped 22% in 2022 over 2021.
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Explore how rail operators can give passengers what they really want — access to streaming, high-def internet video.
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