In case you hadn’t noticed yet, the next-level guest experience requires more than just regular hotel TV with linear TV channels for entertainment. Guests want to consume entertainment like they do at home, which means that they want in-room streaming of tv shows and movies, more than they want to rent content, or god forbid... watch cable.
Don’t get me wrong, linear TV is still a necessity and many guests prefer regular broadcasts and don’t necessarily have time to binge-watch Tiger King during their stay. But, if you want the guests at your hotel to have that modern and luxurious, while still comfortable home-like experience, then you need in-room streaming.
So in this post you will learn the following about streaming services for hotels:
If you already know how important streaming is for in-room entertainment and want to know what your options are, I suggest you jump directly to the part about how to provide in-room streaming and Netflix in your hotel.
Providing BYOC (Bring Your Own Content) services isn’t exclusively for luxury brands or big chains, if that’s what you think. It’s available for any hotel, regardless of size, location or guest profiles.
It’s not just an add-on service either, only to be considered if it can be squeezed into the budget. It might actually be one of the most affordable options for in-room entertainment in the long run.
As the title and the list above says, I will cover mainly two topics in this post. Why you should provide in-room streaming (and especially Netflix) for your hotel guests and how you can go about providing it.
Okay, let’s start with the why and the importance of streaming in today's hotel entertainment.
There is a simple answer to this question; it’s where the video entertainment market is moving, meaning that it’s what most of your guests want. People have their own content at the ready and they want to watch it whenever and wherever they want, simple as that.
So I’m sure most of you know this by now, but if not; In-room streaming should be among the top contenders for entertainment services that you are considering.
Global usage of cable and satellite subscriptions have been going down for years as consumers are cancelling their pay-tv services at an increasing rate and completely switching to subscription-based OTT (over-the-top) streaming services, also known as subscription video on demand (SVOD), such as Netflix, Disney, Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu and the like.
This has even become a phenomenon you might have heard of known as cord-cutting. Referring to the act of “cutting the cord” to your cable or satellite TV provider and instead streaming your content from the internet via IPTV or OTT.
So, SVOD is becoming the norm, or already is actually.
For example, Netflix surpassed cable pay-tv providers in the U.S. already in 2017 by number of subscribers and they have just kept growing, adding more original content on the way that compel more and more consumers to turn to streaming.
It’s not just the giants contributing to the growth, new domestic streaming services are popping up all over the globe all the time, while some media powerhouses have just recently entered the streaming arena, like Disney with their OTT streaming service Disney+ landing in (the rest) of Europe only last week, a year after the initial launch in the U.S.
The global number of total SVOD subscriptions is being estimated to reach a staggering 700 million during 2020.
So why would you consider something else, like additional paid content or similar if we know that consumption of such content is going down while streaming subscriptions are going up?
Sure, you could gain some extra revenue by providing premium channels or pay-per-view movies, but guests don’t really want that anymore and it's also costly to provide (digital rights management, movie libraries, licensing fees etc.).
For example, If I wanted to offer one or two entertainment services for the guests at my hotel, I would go with regular TV and in-room streaming any day of the week.
You are far better off increasing your guest satisfaction through a hotel TV system that gives guests what they want instead of investing in costly and outdated entertainment options.
Netflix is the biggest SVOD service on the planet at the moment. With almost 200 million subscribers they are far ahead of the others. The closest rivals are Amazon Prime Video and the big players Iqiyi and Tencent Video coming out of China, hovering around 119 million and 112 million subscribers respectively.
However, though they are available internationally, the Chinese streaming services only offer content in Chinese which makes them less lucrative and not that relevant for us westerners.
Looking at the other big english-speaking global services, Amazon Prime Video and newcomer Disney+ have a very respectable (growing) subscriber base, and especially Prime Video has been catching up to Netflix in recent years. but Netflix still manages to stay ahead of the pack.
With Disney+ launching in Eastern Europe and expanding to Latin America later this year, their subscriber numbers can be assumed to increase drastically from the current 50 million that the latest sources report. So, we are likely to see the OTT service boasting a lot more subscribers by the end of 2020.
But the same is probably true for Netflix and Amazon Prime Video as well, as they have been reporting consistent growth so far. Many streaming services have seen an exponential increase in subscribers due to the lockdown caused by the pandemic.
Netflix in numbers:
It’s not only the consumer stats that speak for the popularity of streaming and Netflix. Usage in hotels also confirms that guests prefer using the hotel tv for their own content.
If you're still not convinced that guests want to watch Netflix, just do a quick Google search for “Netflix” and “hotel TV”. You’ll likely find a bunch of articles and instructional videos on how to use HDMI cables or streaming devices from e.g. Amazon, Roku or Apple to watch your own streaming subscription on a hotel tv without the hotel actually offering you this choice..
It’s quite apparent, right? In-room streaming is here and it’s here to stay.
In the hospitality industry however, Netflix have moved surprisingly slowly (gaining on 200 million subscribers I guess they haven’t been bothered so far). But luckily, hotels and TV system suppliers are taking the necessary steps for answering guest demands by bringing Netflix to the hotel TV.
Now that we have established why streaming and preferably Netflix should be a part of every modern guest experience, we can jump into how you actually go about providing it.
There are mainly two ways you can allow your guests to use their own Netflix and other streaming subscriptions on the hotel TV during their stay: casting or choosing a Netflix approved TV system supplier.
For Netflix specifically, there is also a third option: working with them directly to get on their approved list. But, the current list consists exclusively of major hotel brands like Marriott, Hilton, Four Seasons, Hyatt and only at select locations in the U.S.
These companies have likely gone through a rigorous approval process involving a lot of development as Netflix has many requirements and criteria for integrating with any sort of TV system or third-party solution.
So unless you’re interested in going through the resource-consuming process of being approved (and spend a year or two doing it) either of the first two options are the way to go.
Let’s have a closer look at those.
Casting is a BYOC (Bring Your Own Content) technology through which hoteliers have been providing streaming services for a couple of years already.
Growing in popularity in homes and consequently in hotels, casting allows guests to simply share their content to the TV directly from their own devices.
Most often realized through various integrations of Google Chromecast, it is arguably one of the best BYOC solutions in terms of ease-of-use for the guests.
Put simply, guests connect to the Chromecast plugged in to the in-room TV over the hotel WiFi by following instructions and scanning a QR-code on the TV, after which guests can start casting their content.
Some TV models and brands even have Google Cast built-in (different from the Chromecast dongle) which removes the need for an external device (the dongle).
This can be beneficial since it requires less hardware, which leads to a lesser risk of breakage or failure which in turn leads to less maintenance and support expenses for you. You can also use the TV as a hotspot for connecting the guest device to the TV, instead of providing the connection over WiFi.
However, keeping your guests on the hotel WiFi gives you the opportunity to provide additional services and promotions.
Sensible hotel TV system suppliers provide advanced casting solutions that connect guest devices to the TV over WiFi via a proxy server. This adds an additional layer of security as well as centralized control while it lets your guests stay on the WiFi.
And it doesn’t matter which casting hardware you have in the rooms, proxy server casting solutions can be used for both built-in Cast and Chromecast dongles.
We wrote an article about what the different BYOC technologies your hotel can utilize a while back, if you’re interested.
Benefits of casting for the guest and the hotel:
Once you have a comprehensive casting solution in place, you don’t really have to worry about providing any entertainment content directly through the hotel TV if you don’t want to.
Guests will be able to cast not only Netflix, but content from any casting-enabled app, like YouTube, Disney or Spotify for example, and most smartphones can cast the entire screen of the device which allows guests to practically view whatever they want on the TV.
Yet all guests are still not used to using their mobile devices for entertainment, or simply do not want to. If your guest demographic consists mainly of people in this category, offering a Netflix app directly on the TV might be the better choice.
The contrast to casting is to provide a ready to go Netflix integration with an app on the TV. For this you would need a TV system and hardware supplier that has been approved directly by Netflix. In other words, a supplier that has gone through the rigorous process I mentioned earlier.
Being approved is a prerequisite for having a Netflix app, there is simply no other way. But the fact that there are approved TV systems is good because that means that you, as the hotel, do not have to go through the process as long as you choose an approved supplier.
Having a built-in app can prove more beneficial than having a casting solution because let’s face it, all guests aren’t comfortable with casting. Some people might not have a smart device, or don’t know how to cast or simply don’t want to use their phone to control the TV.
With an app, guests would be able to log in to their own Netflix account on the tv using the remote, just as with any normal Smart TV app. Which like casting, gives easy access to the guests’ own content.
The main difference to casting is that guests must manually operate the TV and they are required to enter their personal credentials, meaning that safety and data security is key here.
With an approved supplier, the tv system secures the guests’ data when in use and because the system is connected to the hotel PMS, all account credentials are removed at checkout.
Benefits of a Netflix app for the guest and the hotel:
If a built-in app feels more suitable for your hotel and guests, then you need to make sure that the supplier is 100% approved and has a finished Netflix app integrated with the system.
The approval process can be so long that if your supplier doesn’t have an integrated app at the ready it might mean that you have to wait a year or more for the approval process and development to be concluded. Or worst case scenario, the supplier fails to fulfill Netflix’s requirements and gets disqualified, leaving you and your guests without the app completely.
Having both a Netflix app on the hotel TV and a powerful casting solution gives your guests the best of both worlds, facilitating a true BYOC experience.
Guests can cast basically any content such as videos, pictures, games or music from any casting-enabled app on their device. This includes, but is not limited to Netflix. Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HULU, NBA, HBO, Youtube, Spotify etc. all support casting in their mobile apps.
While with the built-in Netflix app, guests that don’t want to (or are unable to) cast can just simply use the TV remote to watch their favorite Netflix show.
When a built-in app and casting is used in combination the guest’s device will cast the content directly to the app which allows for an even smoother user experience than with a purely casting-based solution or a standalone app.
With a comprehensive TV system such as this it is also easier to facilitate a larger pool of guest segments and it provides that modern in-room entertainment experience we keep hearing so much about.
Giving your guests multiple options for consuming their content is also ultimately a better user experience and more similar to the multi-device environment guests are used to.
If casting, built-in apps or both is the best solution for your in-room streaming and entertainment purposes is up to you, if you have multiple locations it might even make sense to deploy different solutions at different hotels instead of going with the complete solution.
The bottom line is that streaming and bringing the guests' own content into the hotel room is a necessity for the guest experience. How you go about facilitating that is a different question, just as long as you make sure that you do facilitate it.