Some of the greatest advancements in fitness technology in the last few years have been in entertainment options. Touchscreen consoles, internet access, RSS feeds, Pro:Idiom television programming…all of these and more have found their homes on the humble treadmill, exercise bike, and other cardio machines. Facility managers have access to more options at a better price point to offer an immersive experience to their members. But with any advancement comes new challenges, and these exciting entertainment options require careful planning of infrastructure for optimum user-experience.

As with fitness equipment, there have also been significant changes to TV signal distribution over the last several years. Until recently most TV channels were sent out from the TV service provider using analog signal with no encryption. Now, the large majority of TV service providers use encrypted digital signal. The upside is that digital signal can provide a much clearer, crisper picture at a lower signal strength and allows a higher quantity of channels. The downside of this change is that an additional device is almost always required to remove the decryption from the TV channel so the tuner can display the channel.

So what challenges have come with the advancement of technology?
When the digital transition first began, the problem was some devices could not receive digital signal – they could only receive analog. This is not a concern for any devices produced since March 2007 as by law they must also receive digital channels. However, there are still a few problems that can arise. The most common in relation to fitness centers include channel control, encryption type, cabling needs, storage for decryption devices, and compatibility of devices.

What options are available for a fitness center?
While the options are affected by several factors including facility type, TV provider, geographical area, and facility size, the following basic groups of devices are options for most facilities:

Set-top box, cable box, or DTA – a relatively small device that removes encryption and sends out one channel at a time.
Head-end system – a larger rack-mount system that removes encryption from multiple channels at once.
MDTA, Q2Q, or multiplexor – a larger wall-mount system that removes encryption from multiple channels at once.

What can a facility manager do to help find the best solution for their specific facility?
The single most important thing the facility manager can do is plan ahead. Although it may seem very trivial in the grand scheme of creating a new fitness facility, deciding early on who your TV provider will be and letting your sales representative know will help them recommend the appropriate equipment to provide seamless integration between your new fitness equipment and your TV equipment. This also includes recommending the correct power, coax, and data outlets for your specific scenario. Advantage has a team in place specifically to address common infrastructure questions, and the sooner you start a conversation with us, the better we can tailor your equipment options to meet your specific needs. We’re also happy to work with you from the very beginning – let us know what TV service you’re considering or who your local providers are and we’ll help determine which service or system will meet your needs and which fitness equipment entertainment options will integrate with it.

Any final notes?
Technology changes quickly, and keeping up with the systems available can take significant research. While the solutions noted here are applicable in most areas, your facility may be in an area that has other options. Occasionally there are areas that still offer unencrypted digital signal, and some providers have not completed the digital transition for all channels. There are also different systems used in different markets (hospitality, for instance). While we hope this information will help you make a more informed decision, please don’t hesitate to include us in the conversation with providers from the very beginning. This is what we specialize in, and we’re here to help!

Do you currently need assistance with a media/entertainment issue? Contact us at

This article was written by Lydia Poirier, our in-house 2D Design & Infrastructure Specialist.

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