There is no better way to get customers into your bar than with DIRECTV sports. It’s proven over and over again… DIRECTV isn’t a cost, it’s a profit generator. It keeps customers in their seats and when they’re in their seats they order food and drinks, easily paying for the cost of DIRECTV service. It’s easier than ever to get your bar or restaurant wired, because there are so many good options out there. You don’t have to know how to do it… Signal Connect’s certified technicians will take care of it for you. We’re going to throw a few diagrams your way, though, so you get an idea how it’s done.
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Step 1: Figure out what you want
Are you looking to outfit a sports bar with 50 TVs or are you just looking for something to sit over the bartender’s head? The key to getting the best value from DIRECTV is knowing what you want in the first place. That information comes from the person who knows your business better than anyone else: YOU. Here are the questions you want to ask yourself before calling to talk to a Signal Connect professional:
- How many TV’s do I really want?
- How many different programs will I really want to show at the same time?
- How big is my public space, and what is the fire code occupancy?
- Do I want “just” TV or do I also want menu boards, advertising, music and other services?
Sure, it’s easy to say “it all depends on how much it costs.” Remember though, that this isn’t an expense, this is a profit center. If you do it right, this isn’t going to cost you money, it’s going to make you money. Only you know how many TVs you need, though, because only you know the kind of bar or restaurant you want to run. If this is a place where the locals come to watch games on Sunday, then you know the more TVs, the better. If you’re just looking to tune into the occasional game or newscast, one TV may be enough.
Don’t forget a TV for the bar manager’s office or employee lunchroom, by the way… you see over and over that happy employees make for happy customers, and you want to give your people a breakroom experience that makes them feel refreshed. Besides, customers don’t seem to like it when the waitstaff stare at the game when they should be working. Give them TV in the breakroom and that won’t be a problem.
Step 2: Know your location
For one reason or another, bars and restaurants tend to do really well in older buildings. Maybe customers are looking for an established location, maybe there’s just a feeling you get when you’re in an old warehouse or hardware store that’s been repurposed. A lot of bar patrons are men, and men like that industrial look. Unfortunately, there can be some issues with older locations and it’s good to know them ahead of time.
If the walls are solid brick that makes wiring a little tough. You can run conduits on the outside of the walls if you want, but that may not look as good as you want your place to look. There are solutions that minimize the number of wires you see.
If you’re already blowing circuit breakers you may need to get an electrician in to add power. There’s a solution that’s lowest on power use, but if you’re already maxed out you may not be able to tolerate even one more wire.
If you have existing wires… it’s possible they could be reused but honestly it is probably easier to replace those wires now rather than wait to see if they are “DIRECTV-quality.” It’s best to know what’s in the walls so your installer can be ready.
Step 3: Think about those other little expenses
If you have the money, you can do almost anything with a restaurant entertainment system. You can schedule channel changes, you can control lighting, you can even give customers individual TVs at their tables. How would you feel if you were at a bar and the server walked around with an iPad and asked you what game you wanted to watch? It’s all possible, depending on your budget. Here again you’re the master of your business and you’re the best authority on how far you want to take things. A bar that appeals to sports fans or younger folks could be extremely high-tech while a older patrons in your quiet restaurant might be a little jarred by all that technology.
You also need to think about where you’re going to put things. Some solutions require that a rack be set up and that means that either it needs to be in the public space, or you’re going to have to give up some of that private space to house equipment. There are several ways to make the best of the space you have, but when it’s all said and done, sometimes you do have to compromise. Some solutions use fewer cables, some take up less space, some are less costly.
Good Solution: Receiver behind every TV
One of the easiest solutions to implement is to simply put a receiver behind every TV. This is usually the most cost-effective solution as it doesn’t require special switching equipment. DIRECTV H25 receivers are small and light enough that they can stick to the back of a TV with industrial Velcro, or use one of Solid Signal’s high-quality mounting solutions for a more professional installation.
- You have ultimate flexibility with this solution. Every TV can be on its own channel or you can have every TV on the same channel.
- The cost tends to be lower than with other solutions.
- DIRECTV’s free iPad app can be used for channel changes so you don’t need a separate remote for every TV
- This solution requires that coaxial cables be run to every receiver. This could be a problem in older buildings.
- Over time, this solution could be more expensive depending on how many receivers you really need.
The following diagram shows how a typical bar or restaurant would be wired with this solution.
Best solution: Matrix Switched system
The best solution if you’re controlling a lot of TVs and have a lot of customers is a matrix switched system. With a matrix switched system, all the equipment is kept in a rack and the outputs from every receiver are fed into a special device called a matrix switcher. This matrix switcher lets you send the output from any receiver to any TV, or send it to a bunch of TVs all at the same time. This is the ultimate form of control… usually a tablet app or the front panel of the device is all you need.The big takeaway here is that you can tune any reciever to any channel and control it all with one device, easily sending the output from any receiver to one TV or as many as you want.
The matrix switcher even handles changing channels for you. You can incorporate other devices like media players as well. Of course the downside is the cost… the matrix switcher itself is expensive and it requires special wiring to get an HD signal to every TV. HDMI cables must be run to every TV, or for longer runs the signal can be converted to run over dedicated category 5 wiring. This has the advantage of being easier to wire and allowing for runs over fifty feet.
- The ultimate solution for feeding a lot of TVs
- Very flexible… feed one TV or as many as you want with the same content
- Usually works with a computer or tablet app to make it easy to control things from the bar or office
- High cost of equipment
- Expensive wiring
- May require a lot of electricity.
Here’s a diagram of how a matrix-switched system works.
The most important upgrade: Networking
It may not seem like it, but adding networking is one of the most important parts of your new system. It doesn’t matter whether you go for a “good,” “better,” or “best” scenario, getting connected to the internet is critical.If you have a receiver behind every TV networking them gives you the ability to use the free DIRECTV App for iPad to switch channels from anywhere on the premises and get guide information so your customers don’t have to watch you scroll.
With a headend system your installation tech will have the ability to diagnose problems on the fly and help you get past embarrassing “blue screen” problems.
With a matrix switched system you have ultimate control from anywhere in the room, sometimes anywhere in the world to be able to control any part of your system. It also makes it easy for a technician to help you program.
Usually, adding networking means adding a small adapter in a single location and for the most part doesn’t mean adding an ethernet connection to every TV. The only exception is if you have a system with more than 15 DIRECTV receivers. Current technology limits the easiest form of networking to 15 receivers… beyond that you need ethernet cables and you must use the older-style DIRECTV H24 receivers.
Upgrade your system with the K4D app for iPad
If the regular iPad app isn’t powerful enough for you, the K4D app gives you the power to assign “groups” that make it easy to change the channels on multiple receivers at the same time if you have one receiver behind every TV. It’s a little difficult to set up and requires that every DIRECTV receiver have a static IP address. It’s also fairly expensive for an app at $299. We have a full review with tutorial here, and the good news is that once it’s set up, it’s very easy to use.The high cost of the app is easy to deal with when you realize that in a situation with fewer than 15 TVs you are essentially getting all the benefits of a matrix switcher without any of the high cost.
Another alternative: COM1000/COM2000 system with MediaTune
There’s a hybrid solution that combines the flexibility of having one receiver at each TV with the easy wiring of a headend system, and puts it all in a package not much bigger than an audio receiver. It’s the Technicolor COM2000 system and with the MediaTune software, you get the power to change channels from any PC, Mac, or tablet in Wi-Fi range. It uses very simple wiring which is extremely attractive if you’re upgrading from cable or if you have brick walls.There are tons of upsides to this system — it’s easy to use, uses less power than any other system, and can fit under a desk in the manager’s office. It’s also scalable up to hundreds of channels if you wanted a truly powerful system and can be completely administered over the internet. Of course with great power comes great… expense and this is not the least expensive system. Properly configured it can be less expensive than a matrix switched system but in some cases special adapters are needed for the TV which can drive the cost up.
Add digital signage for a professional solution
Your Signal Connect representative can build a solution with digital signage “baked in…” and that means electronic menu boards, advertising, and live video all sharing the same screen or through different screens. There are a variety of options, but they start with a digital signage controller that sits between the DIRECTV receiver and the TV. New slides are created using simple web-based software and transferred to the controller either through an SD card or over Wi-Fi. There are a ton of options here, and your Signal Connect professional will be happy to discuss them with you.