Opinion: The OTT Revolution

by Mahak Mannan | Published 2 years ago

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Hany Fahmy Aly, executive vice president, Enterprise Business, Du, on how connected services are set to redefine expectations in the hospitality industry

Hany Fahmy Aly_1Today, people around the world travel more often than ever before. As business becomes more mobile and regular travel becomes more accessible, hotel visitors have come to expect an at-home experience in their room. This can be seen in the way hotels and resorts market themselves, they highlight home comforts like cosy bedding, soft pillows, thick bath towels, and complimentary slippers.

These comforts are delivered alongside amenities that help guests continue their usual day-to-day routing while travelling, such as fitness centres and conference rooms. Among these expected amenities is WiFi compatibility, which made its debut in hotels less than two decades back.

However, as the demand for travel grows, hotel patrons’ expectations have evolved. Hotels are still expected to offer all the amenities that contribute to a comfortable, stress-free experience, but these requirements increasingly revolve around the technology and connectivity we’ve grown accustomed to in our everyday lives. Beyond WiFi, more hotel guests today anticipate having access to the Over-The-Top (OTT) and On-Demand services which they enjoy at home.

With the rise of OTT services, global streaming of OTT video content reached a staggering 12.6 billion hours last year, according to online video analytics company Conviva. People everywhere continue to stream more OTT content every year, and it’s no surprise that we have come to expect these services to be available when we’re travelling as well and not just on our personal devices.

The rapid increase in popularity of OTT services, and the consequential expectation that these services will become more readily accessible for users outside their homes, presents a sizeable opportunity for hotels to set themselves apart. The availability of OTT services in guest rooms has become a key differentiator for hotels around the world. In fact, according to Enseo, an in-room entertainment technology company, only 1% of hotel room occupants order paid video on demand during their stay, while 40% of people in hotel rooms with OTT services stream on the service.

What’s more, Enseo reported that between the 20 million people that stayed in hotel rooms with access to OTT services in 2016, 4.7 million hours of OTT content was consumed. Users would simply log into their personal accounts through the pre-installed application on their hotel room TVs, enjoy content at no additional cost and their login credentials would be automatically erased upon checkout.

As other OTT applications become increasingly available in hotel room TVs, this pattern continues to escalate indicating that, when given the opportunity to access their OTT accounts during their stay, hotel guests will not hesitate to utilise it.

While the absence of OTT access in hotel rooms has not yet proven detrimental to hotels’ booking rates, their presence will very likely drive an increase in positive reviews and bookings in the coming years. With time, as more hotels offer rooms equipped with smart TVs and OTT access, these will become standard amenities, meaning hotels who adopt these technologies early on will be at an increasing advantage over competitors.

To bring this vision of OTT availability to fruition in hotels and to reap the benefits associated with these services in the long term, hotels will need to employ the services and solutions of information and communications technology (ICT) providers. Adequate IP infrastructure and IP-capable TVs will be necessary components in implementing OTT capabilities in hotel rooms, which will be enabled by ICT players. As such, the opportunity that exists for hotel companies exists in the same vein for operators. By expanding their product portfolios to fulfil the increasing need for advanced connectivity in hotel rooms, operators can capitalise on a new market segment while priming it for the implementation of future technological developments.

OTT availability in hotel rooms will improve the guest experience substantially and by extension, improve customer satisfaction for the operators enabling these services. In the digital era, hotels and operators alike will be challenged to re-examine their key differentiators and tailor new solutions to suit evolving demands and with service as popular as OTT streaming, there is an immense opportunity to get ahead of competitors in the coming years.

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