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Guestroom Entertainment: IPTV, is it for Your Property? 
What Exactly is it and What are Some of Your Options

Hotel-Online 3Qs Series on Best Practices in Hotel Marketing and Operations


Roswell, GA – January 12, 2012 The Hotel-Online 3Q series continues its interviews with industry experts on notable trends and best practices in hotel marketing and operations with the topic of in-room guest entertainment technologies. Hotel-Online asked Craig Ziegler, president of SuiteLinq, Inc., questions about available options and what hoteliers need to know as they embrace this technology.

Hotel-Online Q1:

There are many options available for hoteliers to consider regarding guestroom entertainment technologies.  Briefly describe current options available today and in the near future, as well as how these options differ. What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Craig Ziegler:

In the hospitality industry today, there are primarily three guestroom entertainment options: digital TV, iTV and Internet protocol TV (IPTV).  Digital TV – the “Past” – is an analog/coax-based solution allowing a guest to view a static channel guide, highlight and select a channel, and then view the selected channel.  The analog limitations of the digital TV solution prevent the guest from having a true IPTV EPG experience and restricts the number of guests who can view a movie simultaneously.
 
iTV – “Yesterday’s News” – is basic WebTV with no true application, requiring a hard drive PC which connects to the back of the TV, giving residential-like Internet access to the TV showing NetFlix, Hulu, Pandora, etc.  The iTV application will almost certainly need a Cat6 connection behind the TV and cannot run on other broadband solutions.  The hard drive PC will have a fan making distinguishable noises.  Being a PC platform, it is not solid state such as a thin-client or set-top box platform, thus there is a higher risk for introducing viruses to the system and it requires an analog coax connection to the back of the TV.  iTV does not provide true IPTV functionality.
 
IPTV – the “Now and Beyond” – supports a customizable interactive electronic program guide (EPG) with HD or SD programming, similar to what guests would have at home via cable or satellite TV.  It provides fast channel changing, pause and rewind of live TV, simultaneous program viewing and channel surfing, DVR and time-shifting functionalities, closed captioning, high-level movie access and parental controls. To increase hotel revenue, e-commerce and advertising are available through the IPTV platform. IPTV is best suited running over a broadband network within the property, but can also run over other broadband networks.  In addition, IPTV does not require a fan, making it the quiet solution.

Hotel-Online Q2:

Is IPTV the inevitable future of in-room entertainment and information systems and why? What is it about IPTV technology that delivers sustainable revenue opportunities both now and in the future? What options are available for smaller properties wishing to maximize guestroom entertainment revenue without incurring substantial expense?

Craig Ziegler:

It is inevitable that all properties will migrate over to IPTV because it is what we, as a society, have come to expect.  A true IPTV solution offers the guest an opportunity to use the various platforms which will enhance and simplify such options as in-room dining, entertainment, transportation, property services and other amenities.  These are options that will not only better the guest experience and increase customer satisfaction, but will also drive revenue back to the property by directing the guest to particular advertisers, rental cars agencies, business centers or print-from-room options, making golf or spa reservations, etc. – all of this is possible through the guest’s mobile device, tablet, personal laptop or the TV itself.
 
Smaller or limited-service properties can capitalize on the IPTV platform by offering DIRECTV Residential Experience (DRE), a coax-based IPTV platform.  This can be bundled with other options, thus enabling the property the ability to make mobile, tablet and laptop applications available to their guests while directing them to other property revenue generators.  DRE is a product sold directly through DIRECTV resellers or operators, for those properties who want IPTV but do not want to upgrade to Cat5 or Cat6. 

Hotel-Online Q3:

What infrastructure should be considered prior to upgrading guestroom entertainment systems to IPTV? With the increasing need for bandwidth, is IPTV really worth the expense?  

Craig Ziegler:

IPTV utilizes a set-top box (STB) which, as previously mentioned, is best suited running over a broadband network within the property via Cat6, but can also run over other broadband networks like VDSL or cable modems rated to handle at least 80mgs of traffic per modem.  The STB would connect to the TV by HDMI.  Our desire for ever-increasing bandwidth can be addressed by offering guests tiers of Internet capacity.  For instance, a basic package may include 256mgs as complimentary, with additional bandwidth available for a fee, thus driving more revenue or, at the very least, helping to offset additional costs.
 
Is IPTV worth the added expense?  That is a question each individual property will have to answer, or it may become a branding decision – much like offering free breakfast or free HSIA.  It becomes a cost of doing business for some, and for others it’s a way to enhance the guest experience and stay ahead of the competition. Can you think of a property in the next year or so that will not have a flat-screen TV?  Or does not offer HSIA?  IPTV will soon exist on that same level.  Property owners are looking for unique ways to differentiate themselves and drive revenue. The flexibility of the right IPTV solution can do just that, iTV and digital TV cannot.

About Craig Ziegler and SuiteLinq, Inc.
Craig Ziegler is president of SuiteLinq, Inc., a hospitality industry-leading supplier of integrated, on-demand entertainment and business productivity solutions that delivers an exceptional experience for guests and new revenue streams for property owners.

SuiteLinq provides integrated content, connectivity and commerce solutions including IPTV to the hospitality industry worldwide, enabling properties to engage with guests in their rooms and on-the-go.
 
SuiteLinq is headquartered in Exton, Pa., and in Las Vegas, Nev.  For more information, visit www.suitelinq.com .

Please note that the opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Hotel-Online. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future topics.

Contact:

Michelle Renn
Editor, Hotel-Online
michelle@hotel-online.com
678-802-5308


Previous Hotel-Online 3Q's

Cloud Computing - The Why and How it Benefits Hoteliers with Gregg Hopkins: Hotel-Online 3Qs Series on Best Practices in Hotel Marketing and Operations / December 2011
Introducing Hotel-Online 3Qs Series on Best Practices in Hotel Marketing and Operations: How an Industry Expert Sees It: First Up, Max Starkov / November 2011

 
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