Guestroom televisions are now so much more than just a device to watch shows and movies. They are interactive devices that inform, control and entertain guests — enriching the guest experience. Here's what television experts think are the technology trends that are shaping the guestroom experience this year.
1. More content options. This includes a wider array of over-the-top applications that will continue to grow across smart TV products, said Chris Barton, head of system integrator partner management at LG Business Solutions USA. “Commercially licensed smart applications are steadily increasing throughout the hospitality industry,” he said. Apps like Showtime and HBO Go have introduced hospitality-specific services to expand offerings beyond available video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Crackle.
2. TVs are becoming a platform-centric guestroom solution. “We talk to hotel owners every day and every day we continue to be amazed that many properties do not use the technology already included in the TV,” said RCA Commercial Electronics CEO Jeff Kingston.
The television is becoming the hub of interaction in the guestroom, said Fred Crespo, director of technology and business development at Samsung Electronics. “TVs now are integrated with OTT and voice-activated experiences—it is enterprise friendly for guests,” he said.
As consumers become desensitized to voice-activated devices in their homes, they are worried less about the invasion of privacy in hotel rooms. “It’s already invaded their personal life, so they are looking for it to help them when they are traveling,” Crespo said.
Television manufacturers now are introducing smart artificial-intelligence platforms that work with voice-technology partners such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.
“Hotel TVs can leverage this platform to provide a convenient and connected in-room experience that fits the needs of each guest’s individual lifestyle and preference while offering more content options and greater connectivity than ever before,” Barton continued.
The Internet of Things is being leveraged more than ever in guestrooms, Crespo said. Content management; room controls such as lighting, drapery and locks; energy management (consumption and automation); and voice activation all are intertwined. “Normally those would have been four separate solutions but now the television can act as a hub without requiring separate hardware or external devices,” he said.
3. Internal processing power. “The ‘what’s under the hood’ behind the display are continuing to expand, so we’ll continue to see higher performance all around,” Barton said. Platform makes switching between content options such as broadcast TV, streaming services, external devices, and popular entertainment providers, simple and fast. “It allows guests to benefit from enhanced services like ordering room service, requesting a car or checking out directly through the TV,” he continued.
4. Display technology. The technology is continuing to evolve with OLED and LED 4K Ultra HD display screens now readily available and more affordable as a result of the proliferation of 4K UHD display panels in both the consumer and commercial markets, Barton said.
The new “norm” in hotel rooms is 4K TVs, especially starting at 55 inches, said Jonas Tanenbaum, VP of Samsung Hospitality TV Division. “This mirrors consumer trends where 4K TVs are the vast majority of what people are putting in their living rooms so it makes sense that that’s what hoteliers would put in their hotels as well—that is what guests expect,” he continued. “The quality is immediately apparent.”
As the screen sizes in the rooms increase, Kingston said more hotels are wall mounting the television. “A word of caution … use the volume limiters in our television because the sound transfers directly to the room next door, especially when wall mounted,” he said. “Mount an isolation board to the wall first then mount the TV. This tip will make a happier next-door neighbor.”
How TV technology is making it easier for guests to view OTT content
New technologies are set to transform the guest experience and provide hoteliers with a host of options that will both elevate their guests’ stay and improve their technological infrastructure at the same time.
“We know that guests look for qualities in a hotel TV that imitate those in their own homes. That includes picture quality, a selection of entertainment options, electronic program guides, wide viewing angles, smartphone or tablet pairing and casting capabilities and the availability of embedded applications,” Barton said.
One of the latest trends making it easier for hotel guests to view OTT content is the ability to pair a hospitality TV with a streaming device to allow the guest to navigate and authenticate their smartphone or tablet and stream the content to the in-room TV. “Guests want access to the same TV viewing experiences they have at home,” Barton continued. “While the use of these devices makes it easier for guests to watch their favorite shows, the fact that it’s based on consumer technology seen in everyday life means it needs special network equipment to help simplify the in-room pairing process.”
Guests are watching a lot of on-demand content in their homes and the same expectation applies when they are in the hospitality setting, Crespo said. “Hotels are making that experience available readily and easily now—Amazon, Netflix, Hulu can all be watched in hotel rooms now,” he said.
In 2016, guests cast from more than 100 apps, according to Sonifi Solutions, and last year guests cast from more than 890 apps, including more than 140 with international content, according to the company.
“Without a doubt, the introduction of OTT content has changed the hospitality TV environment,” Barton said. "There’s still a lot of traditional linear content, but hoteliers and manufacturers alike are crafting solutions for more connected OTT services."
5 things to know about guests’ entertainment needs
In 2016, guests averaged three casting sessions per stay, watching around three hours of streamed content. In 2017, the average was four casting sessions per stay, and in 2018, guests averaged five casting sessions per stay and consumed approximately five hours of streamed content while in the room, according to Kara Heermans, VP of products management and user experience at Sonifi Solutions. “We expect this trend to continue to increase in the future,” she continued.
We asked the experts about casting and other guests’ entertainment desires while on property and here are five things hoteliers should know.
1. Every guest is different. “While trends in certain age groups or locations can be found, ultimately everyone has individual habits, needs and preferences,” Heermans said. “In-room entertainment is no different and a successful approach is a platform that enables all guests to feel at home.”
2. Guests want to cast. “Guests prefer the content that they are carrying on their devices than the free-to-guest content a hotel is providing,” Bittel Americas President Joe Zhang said. Guests want to use their own subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, HBO and others to watch on the television versus their phone or tablet, said Gary Patrick, CEO of Hotel Internet Services.
3. Security is a concern. Guests are nervous about signing into an app on a guestroom television, Patrick said. According to an HIS survey, 65 percent of guests are “highly concerned” about security related to inputting user names and passwords into an app on a guestroom television. “Hoteliers should maintain focus on the security features included with any potential entertainment platform, while also making efforts to inform guests that such safety protocols are in place,” he said.
4. Technology needs to be simple. Guests want technology that is intuitive and simply works, and they might not tell you if it is too complicated, Heermans said. “Some guests will happily read instructions or call for assistance, but in most cases, guests want simple. Entertainment is about relaxation and enjoyment, so it should be easy and frictionless,” she said. “If there are a lot of steps or if something is confusing, it is unlikely they will reach out.”
The ease of connectivity is critical, Zhang said. “The easier it is, the more likely the guest will enjoy it,” he said.
5. Everything contributes to your brand. “Every facet of your hotel, from the tile in the lobby to the softness of your towels, to the size and capabilities of the in-room entertainment, influence how guests perceive your hotel and your brand,” Heermans said. “A TV offering only linear channels with a less-than-home experience makes for a frustrating stay while a TV platform with access to what they enjoy at home and on the road is a winning experience.”