The future of the hotel television looks bright

You can’t charge guests for WiFi today and keep a straight face, but high definition television content is a different matter, writes Andrew Hennigan

When travellers first started to watch television and films on their own tablets and smartphones some wondered if the big TV in hotel guest rooms might soon be obsolete.

Two years ago, some even told EyeforTravel that they would trade the in-room TV for free Wifi. But now technologies that connect personal devices to the in-room TV are changing the way hotels look at the guestroom TV set. 

Today the television remains the focal point of the hotel room. While guests may want to bring their own content, in the form of subscription services like Netflix and Amazon, apparently there is no substitute for a modern, high definition flat-screen TV. This ability for guests to stream content from tablet to TV will evolve from experience to expectation – good news for providers of televisions and managed guest technology services for the hospitality industry like Quadriga, Airwave and Nevron.

Enabling a TV to internet based services such as Netflix places increased demand on external bandwidth and this could require additional investment, but could also lead to new revenue streams.

Says Michael Lantz, a TV & media entrepreneur, and CEO of future TV application company, Accedo: “One way the hospitality industry will make money is by creating tiers of broadband connections.”

So checking emails might be free of charge, but if you want a movie-enabled broadband subscription you would pay a daily fee. Some hotels are already doing this.

“Now that guests are moving to TV and movie content they have difficulty using their mobile data plan, and suddenly people are prepared to pay for access to the hotel’s broadband again,” says Lantz.

This is the way forward as there will be consumers who will be willing pay a premium to watch 4K ultra high-definition video. 

For hotels there is an opportunity to drop the monthly fee for pay TV channels, but that’s not to say they should ditch the hardware. In the end it’s about providing the guest with a seamless experience so they can consume content where and how they want to.

It’s the ‘seamless’ part that’s the difficult bit. Given multiple standards and the pace of development, connecting smart TVs is challenging, but more than one solution is on the market from both hospitality TV integrators like Airwave and hospitality software vendors like Intelity.

Intercontinental Hotel Group is already investing. At its Staybridge Suites in Vauxhall, London, they’ve chosen Airwave to help guests use their tablet to connect to personal video accounts and then stream to the big hotel TV. "Our guests are able to travel with their downloaded music, movies and favourite TV series wherever they go,” says General Manager Giovanni Valentini.  

According to Valentini, streaming this through the hotel entertainment system has proven extremely popular with guests. The option to ‘mirror’ their tablet, laptop or phone onto the television has also proved to be “exceptionally powerful, not only helping the guests feel more ‘at home’ in the hotel but also helping with their working experience within the room”.

With the latest generation smart TVs the tablet-to-TV screen mirroring feature is available as standard, but it doesn’t work with all mobile devices and only allows some basic features. It may be easy to provide guest room solutions that have one mobile device streaming feature but the tricky part is tailoring that for both Apple and Android based products. So a hybrid solution may be the answer.

What is clear is that there is an opportunity here to upsell, something that EyeforTravel research recognises as crucial to the future of hotels in its Ancillary Revenues in the Hospitality Industry report.

Indeed there are clear business benefits for hotels offering mobile-to-TV streaming as it is not being widely used today. These include:

  • More control:  By giving the customer more options you put the experience in their hands. Streaming content is much more flexible and personal than the older pay-per-view or on-demand entertainment models.
  • Modernity: There is potential for hoteliers to use this technology as an opportunity to redefine and improve upon traditional guest room experience, and really meet guests where they are right now.
  • Revenue: It’s time for hotels to explore how to incorporate this feature into current pricing models for digital amenities and in room entertainment.

Far from becoming extinct, new TVs are likely to be centre stage of the future guest experience, and may even drive fresh revenues as a result. 

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