Hotel TV Channels – Construction Series

A hotel room
11th February 2020

So You Are Building A Hotel – Now What: Hotel TV Channels

Previously we discussed how a hotel is just a building and discovered that is absolutely not the case. Now, here I am, a Technology Consultant, talking about Hotel Construction! This time though we are looking at Hotel TV Channels as part of Hotel Construction.

Funny, that while a hotel is not just a building, the building you create doesn’t just become a hotel. Even when you section it into 100 single bay ensuite rooms with connecting corridors and a lobby.

A Hotel Technology & Travel Technology blog by HotelTCS. Every week we cover topics concerning Technology in the Hospitality Industry. Looking at subjects such as IPTV, HSIA, WiFi, GPON and IoT, we give you the insider info on Smart Hotels and Intelligent Hotel Deployments. Subscribe below for updates!

Hotel construction means more than just a building

Now, while that is part of it, we know that what makes a hotel is so much more.

Bashar Wali explained to us that it’s not the building that makes a hotel, but the service.

Now, this is fine for a running hotel, you have a building with all the features a hotel needs. But say you have a blank canvas? Say you are building a hotel? Now what?

Hotel Construction is something best left to the experts, and I am not one of them. However, this article will focus on the technology – and this is something I do take pride in my knowledge on – for a new build hotel. Specifically, whether we need TV channels in this On-Demand age!

Hotel Construction is On-Demand

It’s 2020 and Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Go and many others have been with us for some time. In fact so long that offering a system that supports them almost isn’t a discussion anymore.

Alongside the OTT apps, where access is expected, we have content casting. Another feature that is barely worth discussing. If you deploy it people will use it. Interactive TV is here, with its many features.

No, today we are discussing Linear TV, channels if you will. While a part of any interactive TV system for sure, it’s one that people give less and less focus to. This is due to the shift towards enabling guests to access OTT apps, cast to the TV’s and generally access their own content.

Funnily enough, I covered this in brief in the article The Fate of Hotel HSIA. This was a look at 10 years of technology in hotels.

One point focused on interactive TV, about guests bringing their own content. The prediction, however, was that there would be ever more need for USB ports and HDMI inputs. As you know, it didn’t quite end up like that. That, however, is hotel technology and especially Interactive TV.

Rather than this becoming a lengthy discussion on the future of linear TV, and channel reception in general, this piece will be focussed at how linear TV plays into a Hotel Construction project.

During hotel construction, it is wise to engage with a specialist in brand standards for the chain you select. That person though should be someone who can assist you with the future of those brand standards. Someone who knows where brand standards are heading. A hotel technology specialist.

Brand standards are an ever-evolving target. Considering the build of a hotel, from inception to opening could be 3 years plus, you need to know the direction they will take.

It would be unfortunate to find that towards the end of your project, the TV channel list needs to be completely redesigned due to a change in brand standards. Anyone who has been involved in this knows how complicated that can be! Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the first time!

Hotel Technology Entertainment System

Hotel TV Channels Glossary

There will be many terms that I use throughout this article, that if you are not familiar with TV reception, may be alien to you. I thought it prudent to I’ve you a brief explanation. So here we go:

Satellite – The most familiar I would say. Like the moon, but in this scenario, we talk about man-made, and man placed object. Like a giant reflector, used to receive and retransmit signals, in our case TV channels over a footprint.

Footprint – The pattern of signal coverage a satellite projects over the ground. Basically the area that the signal can be received in.

Dish – A Satellite dish, used for receiving signals from satellites. They come in various sizes.

LNB/LNC – Low Noise Block/Low Noise Converter – The signal receiving part of the dish, the bit that sticks out on the arm.

Transponder – A frequency on a satellite that carries multiple channels. If you tune a frequency, you receive all the channels on that frequency, whether you want them or not!

Multiplex – The term used in Terrestrial broadcasting for a frequency housing multiple channels.

DVB-C/S/T – Digital Video Broadcasting, the broadcasting standard commonly used in Europe and some other parts of the world. C being for cable, S for Satellite and T for Terrestrial. They all use their own version of QAM.

QAM – quadrature amplitude modulation. It’s a standard for encoding and transmitting digital signals over the air. It’s also used for many other things, but they’re not relevant here.

Terrestrial – Local channels often received via a Rake Antenna

Rake Antenna – A traditional antenna often used on buildings for receiving local terrestrial programming. Colloquially referred to as an “Ariel”.

Ci+ Slot – A card inside a TV headend capable to hold a CAM module.

CAM Module – A card from a channel provider for descrambling a paid or encrypted channel.

TV Headend – The server (For want of a better term) that handles the reception, modulation, and rebroadcasting of TV channels.

If you feel anything is missing, please leave me a comment below and I’ll add it!

A few pointers for Hotel TV Channels in Hotel Construction

From my years as a hotel technology and brand standards expert, this is my list of considerations for TV Channels During Hotel Construction.

Hotel TV Channels Brand Standards

I have lost count of the number of times a consultant or project manager told me the number of dishes that would go on the roof. Or the number of ports on a multi-switch.

Maybe they’ve already decided where the channels are coming from, whether a rake antenna should be installed, or that a local cable provider is more than happy to dig the road up and lay new fibre.

The above probably made someone’s life easier at some point, and that’s fine.

The thing is the chains have some pretty well-defined standards about your channel selection. They don’t really mind how you get them, as long as it’s legal, but they do want you to have them.

The problem is, satellite reception is a cruel mistress. It’s an ever-moving target.

As technology advances, more channels more from SD to HD to 4K to 8K they move transponders, or even to different birds (A bird being slang for a satellite). They move for greater bandwidth, more availability. Satellites have footprints, the are designed to cover different areas. Stating that 20 transponders will give you 60 hotel TV channels is very likely going to end up with you having the home shopping network in your interactive TV listing 3 times.

So, get someone to focus on brand standards. Then you can look at……

Hotel tv channels rely on satellite dishes

Your Guest Profile

Often we talk about the guest profile when looking at Interactive TV features such as OTT and content casting. We talk about what demographic wants Netflix or Disney+, but not often when it comes to hotel TV channels. Well, I’m here to tell you this is a mistake.

You see, from talking to guests and hoteliers there is still a huge demand for channels. Perhaps not as much as there was, but it isn’t Linear TV itself that drives people away from the hotel TV channels, no, it’s the poor choice of lineup.

A single channel in their language, showing content 10 years out of date. Shopping channels. Endless rolling news channels, overdubbed in their language.

Some people just want something on in 3 clicks or less. Hotel TV channels can offer that. You just have to get it right. You have to give people something they actually want to watch. Something that’s tailored for them.

So, by studying your guest profile, or target guest profile, you can figure out what they want.

  • Age
  • Business or leisure
  • Family or couple
  • Region

They all help build a picture that is used in many parts of the hotel. We use this for the channels.

So, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with Hotel Constriction. Well, now we can move on to……

The Hotel TV Channel Line Up

The Hotel TV Channel Line Up might seem like an obvious one, but it’s something that needs a lot more thought than you might first give.

The actual Hotel TV Channels lineup is one of the first things you should get agreed out of all the technology projects you will embark on during hotel construction.

As we discussed above, there can often be movements and changes in satellites and transponders, there are ways we can deal with those, which we shall come onto later.

We already understand the guest profile and the brand standards, and these are our baseline to work from. Beginning here we can build out our channel lineup factoring in things such as:

Brand standards mandate HD channel where available – This will increase transponders required

Brand standards mandate a minimum 60 channels – This means we know how many channels is the minimum. This could help predict things like input licensing or output licensing if required. If we are rebroadcasting in DVB (over coax) then it could help us know how many output multiplexes. That’s probably a bit advanced for this post, comment below if you’d like me to cover more about calculating output bandwidth on COFDM and QAM!

Guest Profile is mostly business travellers – Perhaps a strong focus on global channels and news would be appropriate?

Guest Profile is aged 40+ – Probably doesn’t change much from the above.

The hotel will target families at the weekend – Ah, now that changes the dynamic. Do we need children’s channels? Could subscriptions be involved? Do we need to account for the Ci+ slots for the CAM modules?

I won’t carry on, as I’m only using this to illustrate my point. Your channel list requires thought and time.

Considering the above will give you something that pleases the guest and helps you understand the budget to avoid nasty surprises.

So how do I plan?

Follow my advice above and you will be off to a good start. While we move into a world of Interactive TV with OTT apps and content casting, channels still have some time left in them.

The best advice I can give you right now is to check those standards, understand the guest profile and create that channel list. If you can’t do it, engage someone who can. Someone who knows where to get those channels, and what equipment is required.

Yes, you could blindly put 3 dishes and a rake antenna on the roof. Maybe point them as 19.2, 28.2 and 13 and strike it lucky.

Perhaps the local terrestrial spectrum is all you think you need. In my experience though, I don’t think so.

My point here wasn’t to give you all the answers. I’ll be honest, I don’t have them. I can help you find them for sure. But really I wanted to get you thinking that we can still bring value if we invest a little time.

TV channels are familiar. TV channels are comfortable. A Hotel without TV channels, is, in my mind at least, unthinkable!

Think linear TV is dead? Think again!

A Helping Hand for Hotel Construction

Hopefully, the points above give you some direction on where to go with TV channels as part of the Interactive TV solution in Hotel Construction.

A favourite subject of mine, and one I am so passionate about, as it’s an easy area to see money wasted by very simple mistakes. Taking some time to review the above during your hotel construction could help keep budgets on track, and avoid any wasted time.

This article is part of our new series on Hotel Construction. In this series, we will cover topics such as WiFi, Interactive TV, content casting and IoT to name but a few.

However, the main focus here is how they impact hotel construction and design.

We hope they are of use to anyone involved in hotel construction or even design and development. Subscribe below to be notified first when the articles are available.

Also, if you love IoT, we’ve looked at this not once, but twice before! Read, enjoy, comment and share!

Hotel TV Channel Design

Here at HotelTCS, we are experts in Hotel Technology and brand standards. If you are involved in hotel construction and want to know how we can help you avoid costly mistakes, contact us now.

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As this article was heavily focused on TV channels in construction we will soon be releasing follow up, with more detail and less focus on construction. Subscribe below to keep up to date!

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You may also enjoy some of our other articles, such as “A Hotel is Just a Building”, “Can Intelligent Hotels find their voice?” and “The Fate of Hotel HSIA”.

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