You Can Thank DISH Network Corp. (DISH) for Free Movies on Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) Flights This Summer

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DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) may have lost the high-stakes poker game over some serious wireless operations, but the satellite broadcaster has plenty of backup ideas up its sleeve. First up: a fresh marketing agreement with Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) that delivers free movies and TV shows to Southwest passengers, courtesy of DISH.

DISH Network Corp (NASDAQ:DISH)

The service delivers a subset of the content you’d get as a DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) customer with a Hopper account. Just like the Hopper deal, you’ll watch a limited selection of live TV channels along with “up to 75″ on-demand programs via your own mobile electronics. The data stream is powered by Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV)’s onboard Wi-Fi service.

DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) suggests using Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPads and iPhones, and actually handed out free iPad 2 tablets (a two-year-old model that still sells for $399) to about 100 Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) passengers in a launch-day stunt. Android users and other mobile platforms are taking a gamble as the service only supports “some” mobile devices without providing a comprehensive list.

For Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) passengers, it’s a pretty sweet deal. The movies stream totally free of charge. You don’t even have to pay for the $8 in-flight Wi-Fi service separately, as the DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) media travels on a separate single-purpose network, according to a Southwest blog post.

Free in-flight live TV and on-demand movies, as seen on your own tablet. Image credit: Business Wire.

All told, it’s a solid selling point for Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE:LUV) flights. The company still trails behind the entertainment options on fellow hub-less airline JetBlue Airways Corporation (NASDAQ:JBLU), which already offers multichannel satellite TV via DISH Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DISH) competitor DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV) as well as digital radio courtesy of sector leader Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI).

JetBlue Airways Corporation (NASDAQ:JBLU)’s Sirius XM Radio Inc (NASDAQ:SIRI) and DIRECTV (NASDAQ:DTV) media is streamed through the built-in screens, so Southwest is certainly saving some money on hardware installation here.

Mind you, I’m not knocking Southwest’s media efforts at all — most airlines don’t come close to either one of these customer-friendly feature packages. It’s just worth pointing out what DISH and Southwest are up against in the free market.

Finally, DISH is clearly treating this program as a marketing exercise with a side of target practice. Southwest returns the free-movies favor by including ad spots for DISH in the media stream, as well as in various parts of the in-flight and booking experience. It’s a chance for the satellite broadcaster to spread the word about its services, not to mention working up its muscles for a larger Internet-based launch down the line.

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