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Television Is an Important Part of Your Cruise Experience, Even If You Don’t Know It

Written by: Kuki

According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.
 So one wonders… do you take those television watching habits onboard with you when you cruise?
We might not think of television programming as very significant issue when planning our cruise vacations, but onboard personnel face many questions, and complaints when passengers discover they are going to be separated from their favorite television programs.

On the newer ships one of the features often touted as an amenity (meaning it offers extra value) is when the cabins are outfitted with flat screen televisions. Suites are being equipped, and promoted to have enormous flat screen televisions. Jumbo screens outdoors on deck are becoming common place.

The cruise lines seem to understand, probably more than any of us even give much thought to, that video programming is an important part of the cruise experience for passengers.

To this point the availability of television programming choices has been extremely limited, and dependant on what part of the world your ship is traveling in. Even if some form of programming was available, signals were intermittent.

Aside from issues with satellite signal technologies, there’s an issue with broadcasting rights. In some cases, your favorite networks may not own the international rights to broadcast their own signals.

MTN, a privately held company, with main offices in Miramar, Florida supplies television, internet, Wi-Fi, cell phone, and satellite services to the majority of the cruise ship, and maritime industry. In 1986 they were responsible for the first live TV broadcast at sea. In 2003 they broadcast TV from a moving truck for NBC News in Iraq. In 2004, in a joint venture with AT&T they began to provide GSM and CDMA services to ships.

Now, on Feb. 1/2010, MTN has launched the cruise industry’s first fully digital global TV network. The signals are broadcast from the massive MTN TV broadcast center in Holmdel, New Jersey. This has been made possible by a partnership arrangement between the cruise lines, the content providers, and MTN.

This new system, which is currently in operation on 12 ships, will be installed on over 40 ships by May 2010 with a total of 32,000 cabins already under contract.

At it’s introduction, the programming available to cruise lines (through licensing agreements with providers) includes Fox News, MSNBC, CNBC, Sky News, Sky Sports News, and BBC World News. Through advances in engineering satellite broadcast technologies MTN is able to provide this program seamlessly and globally, regardless of ships positions. This television programming is an add on to onboard stored television programming available now, such as old television programming, movies, and pay per view movies.

The announcement for this development was made during a Press Luncheon we attended during the Seatrade – Cruise Shipping Miami conference earlier this month. At that time we learned that the cruise lines pay for this programming on a per cabin basis, though not surprisingly MTN did not reveal what that cost per cabin was.

At this time MTN is partnered with Celebrity, Silversea, Norwegian, Crystal, Princess, Fred Olsen, and Azamara cruise lines to operate this programming package.

As the program expands, MTN will be waiting to hear from their cruise line partners as to what broadcast networks and programming they would like added to the package, and would proceed to attempt to get licensing agreements in place to fill those requests.

To the North American passenger market this does not mean that the “entertainment” broadcasts you may be used to watching at home are suddenly available, so you won’t suddenly be watching Amazing Race, Survivor, American Idol or Dancing With the Stars. I believe at this time Carnival is the only cruise line providing that type of Network programming, and it is only available in the Caribbean.

However, the new package of the MTN Global Broadcast Network will certainly allow you to keep much better informed of the world events going on, as you cruise. And if the cruise lines find demand for it to be high, I’d have to believe that their partnership with MTN will allow them to negotiate the rights, and to add that type of programming to their global network package.

So… How important to you is to watch TV during your cruise? Do you feel this is a significant development, or worthy of only a shrug of the shoulders?

- A View From the Kuki Side of Cruising -

 

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Comments

Comment from Paul Motter
Time March 24, 2010 at 12:38 am

I have always known that the TV in my cruise stateroom was one of my most important concerns – but I never voiced it before. having a big, beautiful flatscreen TV with a DVD player and plenty of movies is one of my favorite things in life – on or off the ship.

Crystal Serenity was a great example. Not only did they have Fox and CNBC, that had CNN-America and a huge video library. It was heaven on earth.

Comment from gharkness
Time March 24, 2010 at 3:36 am

If I wanted to watch TV, I’d stay home (but I don’t watch it there, either). Actually, if my TV was stolen out of my stateroom, I probably wouldn’t notice until it was time to check my onboard account. For me, a total non-issue.

Comment from Bob
Time March 24, 2010 at 8:32 am

I wish the cruise lines would take better advantage of the CCTV possibilities especially to provide port information.

Perhaps MTN need to provide a little more space on their service.

Comment from Eddy
Time March 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm

@Bob I totally agree. What better than having a channel dedicated to the next port you are going to. From the cruise line’s perspective it should also be a good sales tool for excursions. Information is power, especially while waiting for your roomate/spouse to get ready. ;-)

Comment from Eddy
Time March 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm

The vacation industry in general is slow to meet the needs of their customers when it comes to television. How long did it take for hotels to catch up with society and start including cable with the room? To that point, when will the cruise lines catch up to the hotels by offering free wifi.

Comment from kuki
Time March 24, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Eddy…
First off we have to recognize that it’s much easier (and cheaper) to supply internet services on land, than at sea.

Secondly.. as inexpensive as is it on land, it’s ODD that it’s mostly the inexpensive hotels supplying complimentary internet… while the higher priced hotels charge daily fees.

Thirdly, of course, is the fact the cruise lines and MTN see their is demand for the “pay service”, and selling the internet service is now a significant revenue producer.

Comment from Trip
Time March 25, 2010 at 1:23 pm

I happen to enjoy the tv, while we dress to go to breakfast, or dinner, when we come back to the cabin after a full day on deck, and prepare to take a nap. I also enjoy seeing the news from other states, and, countries….the only impact the bad sattelite connectivity ever had, was with the World Series, with the Red Sox…the tv kept going in and out, and, finally out for good…My hubby almost tore his hair out!

Comment from Tim Butler
Time March 25, 2010 at 5:30 pm

My Stateroom has a TV? Just kidding, I really only use it to check out the video being shot during the cruise, check our location in the ocean and check my onboard account where applicable.

If my stateroom didn’t have a TV it wouldn’t bother me any.

Comment from Eddy
Time March 25, 2010 at 8:06 pm

Kuki,

While it is true that the economy hotels lead the way in free HSIA, Internet access in the hotel industry is everyday more the rule than the exception. My point was that much like in the 80′s, with cable television in hotels, less and less is it an advertised perk and more and more it is an expectation of the guest.
Also, while the cost is obviously greater at sea, HSIA is not cost prohibitive. It could be offered in certain areas in form of WIFI and can be offered in the cabins through BPL (Broadband over Power Lines). Also, as new ships are built and the older ships are remodeled Ethernet capability can be built in. It is not a question of if, but of when.

Comment from kuki
Time March 25, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Most cruise ships do now have shipwide wi fi access. The signal is sent via satellite, and though they’ve been expanding the satellite bandwith, thus making it faster, there are still limitations, and of course expenses from transmitting via satellite. The cable just isn’t long enough :)

Comment from Tim
Time March 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm

If TV is important, then don’t book a Holland American cruise. No NBC, ABC, or CBS feeds, and only ESPN in Spanish. I won’t even go into the rest of our very disappointing Holland American cruise aboard The Oosterdam…

Comment from Sean Webb
Time June 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I worked as a broadcast manager for Celebrity Cruises for three years. I was constantly hearing complaints about the programming we offered on the stateroom television system. Everyone seemed to agree that guests wanted more U.S. network and cable specialty programming, but nobody was willing to pay for it. The casino and bar departments would make the argument that having the big sporting event available would boost sales, but certainly didn’t want to cough up the broadcast fees. Many of the revenue partners worried that if the guests were in their cabins watching CIS they wouldn’t be out and about buying things from their ships. The other aspect of television at sea is hiring qualified technicians and managers to run the systems. You need more than two people to run a broadcast department. And the cruise ship lines aren’t willign to pay what it would take to have an American or Canadian broadcast team work the broadcast centres. Instead they would promote housekeepers and cleaning staff from third world countries. Nor did they provide a full-time broadcast repair technician. So when satellite antennas, controllers and recveivers broke down you had to hope that the electricians onboard had the faintest idea how to fix the malfunctions. I worked on four different ships and only one of them had a broadcast department that had been maintained. And it still didn’t have two properly functioning up to date satellite antennas. And during transatlantic crossing we were way out of the satellite footprint. The early tests with MTN went well, but our entertainment department was reluctant to spend the money for the programming rights. Eventually I stopped pounding my head against the wall and went back to Canada to a real broadcaster.

Comment from Kirkland cruiser
Time February 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm

When we were on a 1 week Mediterranean cruise last Nov., RCCL Voyager of the Seas had only Arab CNN! Great source for news–NOT!

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