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Dish, Southwest to offer free in-flight live TV

DALLAS (AP) -- Southwest Airlines Co. is offering live TV that passengers can watch on their own Internet devices for free.

Satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. will pay for the service through the end of the year on more than 400 Wi-Fi-equipped planes, Southwest spokeswoman Whitney Eichinger said Tuesday.

The companies said that passengers will receive television programming including Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, NFL Network, Food Network, HGTV and Travel Channel, plus up to 75 on-demand shows. Southwest had been offering a similar service on its flights for $5 a day. The airline declined to say how many passengers were paying for TV.

The TV service doesn't include Internet access, for which Southwest charges $8 per flight. Eichinger said that passengers will see both the live-television and Internet options when they sign in.

Dish is "covering the costs and Dish has some opportunity to put their branding in our portals," the Southwest spokeswoman said. "The opportunity to watch TV on board for free is great, especially during the summer when there are lots of kids on board."

Besides putting its name in front of millions of Southwest passengers, Dish will use the deal to offer 12,500 Southwest frequent-flier points to new customers who sign up for certain home programming. The companies said they were joining together in a nationwide marketing campaign.

Southwest uses Row 44, a unit of Global Eagle Entertainment Inc., to provide Internet access to more than half of its planes. Most other large U.S. airlines use a rival service from Gogo Inc.

In afternoon trading, shares of Southwest fell 26 cents, or 2 percent, to $12.84, while Dish shares dipped 17 cents to $42.74.