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What I Learned About Video on August 1, 1981

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June 01, 2013
James Lingle - James@jameslingle.com

Unless you are of a certain age, you are probably wondering what is so important about Aug. 1, 1981.  At 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 1981, MTV showed the very first music video on TV.  It was by a little known band called The Buggles and was called, “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

While packing for a recent family vacation, I started counting the number of Wi-Fi-enabled devices that we were taking with us.  Being a business traveler and someone in the hospitality business I wondered if  the hotel’s network would be able to handle all these devices, how many devices will we be able to connect at one time and if there will be enough bandwidth to do what we want to do.

The hospitality industry has dealt with guests bringing disruptive technology with them for a long time.  The earliest disruptive guest technology was the laptop modem. In a nostalgic kind of way, I’d have to say it was easier then. At that time the biggest worry was having enough phone lines and making sure your guestroom phone had a modem jack. 

The primary consumer was the business person who wanted to send email or connect to the office.  Today, that isn’t the case.  Technology is not just a part of our life – it is integrated into every facet of it. We have become an all-access, all-the-time society.  As an industry we must learn how to capitalize on this as a competitive advantage.
What do guests want today?  It is always easy to answer that guests want everything, but the reality is guests want video. What this means for the hospitality industry is simple: give guests what they want.  In order to do that there are three things you should consider.

Bandwidth and Infrastructure
Bandwidth has become a four letter word in the hospitality industry.  You can get it cheap or you can pay a lot for it, but in most cases you get what you pay for. After buying bandwidth, some hotels did not see the results they expected and many did not understand why. 

The answer is infrastructure. For many years I’ve been telling whomever would listen that it doesn’t matter how much bandwidth you have. If your HSIA infrastructure isn’t good, you are wasting your money on all that bandwidth. Over time this issue has only gotten bigger and it will continue to do so. As guests bring in more and more devices and as we add more devices into the operations environment, we need more robust coverage. If what we had in the past isn’t good enough, it certainly isn’t good enough moving forward.
Many people still believe that cellular networks are the answer. They believe that 4G and future generations of cellular coverage will make the HSIA network in a hotel obsolete. I disagree.  Carriers are constantly looking for ways to offload traffic from their networks.  Bandwidth is at such a premium, even for carriers, that the unlimited data plan is all but non-existent. Everyone from a coffee shop to a hotel is an opportunity to offload traffic.

Someone once coined the phrase, “content is king.”  I would modify that to say, “video content is king.” Netflix reported in its quarterly earnings for Q1 2013 that it has 29.2 million subscribers in the United States and projects 29.4 million by the end of June 2013 (note 3). Hulu Plus had 3 million subscribers at the end of 2012. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of the total number of video subscribers when you consider other providers like Amazon, YouTube, Vimeo and a very long list of other providers.

Guests are increasingly interested in viewing their own content and less interested in viewing the content hotels provide. The opportunity for the hospitality industry is to find ways to embrace that concept. Another phrase someone once shared with me is “the largest screen wins.” Think about it – would you prefer to watch your content on your tablet or laptop, or on that beautiful, large screen? 

How can a hotel make that happen?  I can provide an adapter and plug my tablet into the TV.  But is that the best way to help me experience my content?  For some, the answer is yes. For others,  there are more sophisticated ways of doing that, ways that may cost money, but can also bring significant potential return.

Have a Plan
There is an old adage that goes something like this: you don’t plan to fail, you fail to plan.  You must know what it is your guest wants to experience.  That will be the driver of all that you do. Once you understand what your guest wants you can begin to understand what you are capable of delivering. For some hotels it is the basic experience, while for others it is top-of-the-line service. Regardless of where you stand in the spectrum, you need to have a plan to deliver that experience. What does your infrastructure look like; how much bandwidth do you need to provide; what systems do you need in place to deliver that experience?

Don’t let video kill one of your rating stars. Have a plan, have great bandwidth and infrastructure and let your guests drive the content and experience. 

James Lingle has more than 20 years of hospitality and IT experience and is the founder James Lingle Consulting. You can reach him at James@jameslingle.com or on the Web at www.jameslingle.com.

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