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Airbnb wants to create TV shows to convince people to travel more

Even Airbnb is getting into the TV game. According to Reuters, the hotel and rental platform is looking into building its own TV studio to produce short films, documentaries, and shows that it can use to promote travel and, by extension, its platform.

The idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. Reuters reports that Airbnb has, for a few years now, been looking into either partnering with existing production studios and entertainment companies or building out an internal studio of its own to produce shows and video content that would promote Airbnb guests and hosts, travel locales, and otherwise further transform its image into a travel lifestyle brand. Considering the number of travel and home decor-specific magazines, websites, and video channels both online and on cable, there’s seemingly a big opportunity for Airbnb to dabble in the space.

The report points out that Airbnb is already engaged in the effort, which is said to be driven by CEO Brian Chesky. Airbnb has reportedly worked on a TV show called Home for Apple’s new TV Plus subscription service; the show focuses on unearthing unique living spaces around the world and the people who reside there. Airbnb also helped produced a documentary, called Gay Chorus Deep South which focused on a tour of the Southeastern US, that will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month.

“We’re very much in the R&D phase here,” Chris Lehane, the leading policy and communications executive at Airbnb, told Reuters. “It’s not just limited to video. It could be audible. It could be physical. The more we put content out there, the more you’re going to bring people to the platform.”

Starting a few years ago, Airbnb began fashioning a new image for itself that has grown to include the traditional hotel industry and more than just accommodations. In 2016, the company launched its Trips initiative to let freelancers and Airbnb hosts provide experiences, like tour guides and cooking lessons, that could be used to fill out an itinerary on a vacation or trip away from home.

Two years later, Airbnb launched its Plus tier, a more expensive and curated form of booking designed more like a traditional hotel. Part of that launch meant that Airbnb would start working with bed-and-breakfasts and smaller, independent-owned hotels. More recently, Airbnb has gone even further into the traditional hospitality industry, acquiring high-end rental company Luxury Retreats and, earlier this year, last-minute booking site HotelTonight.

Given the tougher regulatory environment around the short-term rentals that Airbnb was first designed to offer, it makes perfect sense that the company would ultimately grow large enough to become part of the traditional industry it once sought to disrupt. The company, which is valued at more than $30 billion and poised to go public either this year or next, has long harbored ambitions of being a holistic, end-to-end travel company — like a travel agency, booking platform, and tourism guide rolled into one.

Much like how Netflix started out as a game-changing distribution mechanism for entertainment and has transitioned into a hybrid player within Hollywood, Airbnb is very much following the playbook of competitors, like Expedia and large hotel chains, by offering similar services and positioning itself as a familiar alternative to standard rental and hotel platforms. Part of that effort includes splashy marketing campaigns, which is what Chesky’s original video ambitions seem designed for.


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