Harry Sloan's Global Eagle, China Telecom to Offer In-Flight Wi-Fi in China

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Harry Sloan and Jeff Sagansky (inset), founders of Global Eagle Entertainment

The in-flight entertainment company founded by Jeff Sagansky and Sloan has expanded its reach via a deal with the state-backed Chinese telecom giant.

In-flight entertainment provider, Global Eagle Entertainment has partnered with China Telecom Satellite Communications to develop and implement satellite-based airplane Wi-Fi and device-based entertainment solutions in Chinese airspace.

The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding that entails Global Eagle helping China Telecom provide an in-flight connectivity service for Chinese airlines, reflecting the tastes and preferences of the local airlines and travelers in the Chinese market. The deal also includes China Telecom supplying connectivity support to Global Eagle’s non-Chinese commercial airline customers who fly into and over the People’s Republic of China.

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Global Eagle was founded by Hollywood veterans Harry Sloan and Jeff Sagansky, who raised upward of $190 million in a May 2011 IPO. In 2012 the company acquired Row 44 Inc., which provides broadband services to airlines via satellite, and 86 percent of Advanced Inflight Alliance AG -- a German company that delivers games, movies and entertainment to the airline industry -- in a $430 million deal.

Financial terms for the China Telecom partnership were not disclosed.

"China Telecom Satellite is a prestigious and professional organization that represents innovation and excellence in satellite communications," said John LaValle, CEO of Global Eagle Entertainment. "We look forward to a partnership that takes full advantage of our respective abilities to deliver superior in-flight connectivity for airline customers."

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Global Eagle’s subsidiary Row 44 will provide its satellite-based in-flight connectivity platform, including hardware and software, to the company’s new Chinese partners. Row 44 will also consult on developing programs for increasing passenger loyalty and onboard revenues for the Chinese airlines.

Sloan and Sagansky both enjoyed long careers in the land-based entertainment sector before venturing into the skies. Sloan began his career in Hollywood as an attorney before becoming an entertainment executive and dealmaker. From 2005 until 2009, he was chairman and CEO of MGM. Sagansky was president of CBS Entertainment from 1990 to 1994, and co-president of Sony Pictures Entertainment from 1996 to 1998.

China Telecom Satellite Communications is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Telecom, the country’s behemoth state-backed telecom provider. The telecom and communications sectors have been deemed as sensitive industries by the Chinese government and mostly remain under state control.