In-room entertainment gets high-tech boost

Suppliers are racing to keep up with new ever-evolving guest expectations. Photo credit: Dish Network (Dish)

The combination of limited options for social activities due to COVID-19 and the explosion of at-home entertainment options is keeping hotel guests in their rooms, putting increased pressure on entertainment suppliers to keep up with new demands. 

Vanessa Ogle, founder and CEO of tech supplier Enseo, said that 2020 has given the company a chance to shine. “We had this incredibly powerful communications portal and platform that was ready to do all of these new things that became much more important in the era of COVID-19,” she said of Enseo and its sister company and cloud platform provider Catapult Tech. 

In order to meet new demand, Enseo activated new features in its technology, Ogle said, securing more than 70 total patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over the course of 2020. “Because we had spent so many years investing in the core platform, we were able to quickly turn on new features that were latently available, such as EnseoConnect—the ability to have a touchless experience with your room.” EnseoConnect turns mobile phones into a remote control, letting guests manage the TV, lights and thermostat without touching any other device.

In February, Enseo finalized a deal with WarnerMedia to allow participating hotels who subscribe to Enseo and the HBO service to let guests access the complete HBO library during their stay, whether or not the guests subscribe to HBO.

About a year ago, DIRECTV launched the Advanced Entertainment Platform, which is now the company’s most popular video product. The platform, said Kim Twiggs, assistant VP of market development, commercial lodging and institutions at DIRECTV, combines linear satellite programming with on-demand content from more than 50 networks as well as dedicated apps from programmers and networks. Guests can also stream content from their personal device to the guestroom TV via the Android-based StayCast platform in conjunction with DIRECTV’s AEP product. 

Another option that's grown in popularity during the past year is Roomnet, an in-room internet protocol TV entertainment solution that works with Apple TV.  Co-founder and COO Brian Cunningham said the platform is aligned to “typical consumer at-home habits” that work with the Apple App Store. The platform, he said, eliminates the need for traditional cable or satellite services. “We now have a way to bring content directly to the device over the internet,” he said. 

Next Steps

One of the biggest changes over the next year or so will be accelerating adoption of integrated solutions, said Nate Block, GM of Dish Business. New expectations create an opportunity for hoteliers to be ahead of the adoption curve and create brand loyalty.  “Entertainment solutions are, and should, continue to be a brand loyalty play,” he said. “I genuinely believe that this is the next entertainment evolution for hotels [and] the most impactful transition we’ve seen since the adoption of HD.” 

“Cost-effective, live, linear programming will continue to be important for guests to have access to the most up-to-date news, sports, entertainment and information,” said Twiggs. “But providing thousands of app and on-demand content options from the top networks allows hoteliers to provide additional options without added capital expense and complexity.” 

“The trajectory of bandwidth needs has gone nothing but up,” Cunningham said. “There are some really interesting technologies come out, though, that allow us to get Ethernet connectivity off the existing coaxial wire.” While traditional Category 6 Ethernet cables are always preferable, he said, that kind of wiring may not always be possible. “There are technologies that allow us to get around that.”