Guestroom televisions get personalized

At its Aloft properties, Starwood is giving guests the at-home experience of being able to stream content directly to their gues

At its Aloft properties, Starwood is giving guests the at-home experience of being able to stream content directly to their guestroom Apple TVs.A standard guestroom television isn’t enough anymore—guests want to watch what they want, whenever they want to, even when traveling. It’s about personalization, said Brian McGuinness, global brand leader for Starwood Hotels & Resorts' specialty select brands. Hotels, manufacturers and content providers want the hotel TV to remain relevant, even when guests can watch anything they want on their own devices.

At the Aloft Cupertino in California, each room comes with a digital media hub. Because of the Cupertino location, where Apple is based, the rooms’ 42-inch LCD TVs include Apple TV, so that guests can choose from thousands of movies or TV shows. Guests can also connect to other services or stream their own media.

“As Starwood’s tech-forward innovation lab, we’ve been piloting in-room Apple TV that allows guests to access their personal accounts [i.e. Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc.] simply by using their own login through the television,” McGuinness said. “And guests love it. We look at Aloft Cupertino, set in the heart of Apple headquarters in Silicon Valley, as a testing hub for the brand and often pilot a lot of these game-changing technologies there first.”

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At its Aloft properties, Starwood is giving guests the at-home experience of being able to stream content directly to their guestroom Apple TVs.

At its Aloft properties, Starwood is giving guests the at-home experience of being able to stream content directly to their guestroom Apple TVs.

Fred Crespo, director of technology and business development in the hospitality sales and marketing group of Samsung Electronics America, agrees that guests want access to content the way they are consuming it at home—if they don’t get that from the guestroom TV, they will go to their own devices.

“The most tech-savvy travelers want the at-home experience while in the room, so there is a shift back to the television,” he said. “Guests want to watch TV on the big screen versus their phone—that is just a work-around when on the road with no better options.”

Smart TVs that have interactive guides and can facilitate mobile device interaction and bring in applications, such as Netflix, Hulu and Pandora, are being installed in more and more hotels. “In hotels where guests don’t have the capability to stream from their devices to the TV, they are asking for it, which is why we’re constantly experimenting with various technologies to enhance the guest experience,” McGuinness said.

Beyond smart TVs, DirecTV is gaining popularity since it can mimic the residential experience without impacting the hotel’s broadband capabilities, said Doug Eichler, VP of commercial sales for DirecTV. 

Preview: Netflix is coming to a hotel room near you

Marriott International is letting guests in eight hotels access Netflix and other streaming media services, such as Hulu and Pandora, through their TVs, the company has announced. The move is part of an effort to construct a new in-room entertainment service. Marriott is not the only hotel company considering offering Netflix as an in-room service for guests, according to reports.

Netflix is being offered in a trial at eight Marriott hotels as an in-room service for guests.

Netflix is being offered in a trial at eight Marriott hotels as an in-room service for guests.

Netflix in the hotel room was being considered as part of a premium Internet package that is available to guests for a fee. It may still come to that after the test phase. “We’re always trying to find ways to make viewing more convenient for our members,” a Netflix spokesman said.

Marriott is one of several hotel chains that have considered offering Netflix to guests. On-demand entertainment can help hotels attract guests who want more than standard TV, and Netflix would be able to gain another way to satisfy existing customers and to introduce its service to new ones.

“We have invited leading technology companies and content providers to work with us to design the next wave in in-room entertainment focusing on on-demand programming,” said John Wolf, a spokesman for Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott. “We are currently offering guests in eight test hotels the opportunity to stream their content through our high-definition TVs from multiple content providers.” litate mobile device interaction and bring in applications, such as Netflix, Hulu and Pandora, are being installed in more and more hotels. “In hotels where guests don’t have the capability to stream from their devices to the TV, they are asking for it, which is why we’re constantly experimenting with various technologies to enhance the guest experience,” McGuinness said.

Beyond smart TVs, DirecTV is gaining popularity since it can mimic the residential experience without impacting the hotel’s broadband capabilities, said Doug Eichler, VP of commercial sales for DirecTV. 

Need to invest in infrastructure

All of the technological advancements in TVs require some additional investments in infrastructure and even customer service. The TV, whether it’s smart or satellite, needs to work efficiently and correctly, and the hotel guests need to understand how it works. Previous generations of wireless networks were designed for a few laptops using the bandwidth, not the multiple devices per room using Wi-Fi today.

Broadband capacity at most hotels may not be good enough for streaming content, especially at peak usage times, said Doug Eichler, VP of commercial sales for DirecTV. “The television has to be simple and intuitive—it’s got to be and do everything the guest can do at home,” he said. “It can’t create 10 problems by fixing one.”

More hoteliers are considering ultra-high-definition TVs, such as Samsung’s curved TVs, for upgrades.

More hoteliers are considering ultra-high-definition TVs, such as Samsung’s curved TVs, for upgrades. 

Streaming content consumes a lot of bandwidth, which means increased costs for hotels, said Oz Eleonora, chief revenue officer at Sonifi Solutions. “Infrastructure isn’t free—people may want it to be, but hotels are going to need to pass along those costs to guests,” he said.

But Eleonora warns that digital rights will be more of an issue instead of technological capabilities to stream content.

“The license to put it on your hotel TV is different than the fitness room TV, which is different than the hotel bar,” he said. “The technology isn’t holding us back—we know how to give the guests what they want, but we will have a problem with the digital rights for all those hotel televisions.”

Eleonora said that hoteliers and solution, content and bandwidth providers will need to come together to find viable business options to fight the rising costs of entertaining hotel guests.

➔  “The technology isn’t holding us back—we know how to give the guests what they want, but we will have a problem with the digital rights for all those hotel televisions.”

Oz Eleonora, chief revenue officer at Sonifi Solutions

“The next few years will be very interesting to see what happens and how we work together to solve this issue,” he said. 115%;font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri;mso-fareast-theme-font: minor-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language: EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA'>Beyond smart TVs, DirecTV is gaining popularity since it can mimic the residential experience without impacting the hotel’s broadband capabilities, said Doug Eichler, VP of commercial sales for DirecTV. 

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