How PPDS is building relationships with hoteliers

Last year, after nearly a decade out of the segment, Netherlands-based PPDS returned to the North American hospitality market by launching a new range of Philips MediaSuite pro Android TVs specifically designed for hotel guestrooms. 

Joe King, VP of hospitality, North America at PPDS, said the team wanted to come back to the market with “a product that would be game-changing” rather than a variation of a consumer device. “And that's where we landed on MediaSuite,” he said. 

Smart TVs for Hotels

While designed for hotels, the Android-based line was still inspired by direct-to-consumer technology. “We did some things differently, but it really comes from things that work in people's homes [that] we know they're going to want to see in a hotel environment,” King said. A residential smart TV, however, is a poor fit for transient guests in a hotel because the units require logging into a range of accounts and making sure passwords are erased at checkout. “The smart features really don't work [in that environment],” he said. “They aren't designed to work commercially.” Hoteliers can add additional dongles and set-top boxes to TVs in order to manage the logistics, but those devices add cost and complexity and can break if mishandled. 

The MediaSuite units, on the other hand, have all of the streaming technology included inside and don’t require any additional components. More importantly, since they are designed for hotels, the TVs can connect to a hotel’s property-management system so that when guests check out of the hotel, all of their credentials are wiped from the PMS. “With other products that are out there, you have to do that with a set-top box,” King said, noting that some of those additional devices can cost as much as $250. “That adds a lot of cost for the hotel.” 

Launching in a Pandemic 

Philips launched MediaSuite in Europe in late 2018 and planned to bring it to the U.S. in early 2020. When COVID struck, the American debut was pushed back. “We knew hotels weren't going to be receptive,” King said, adding that delaying the launch was “the right thing to do.” The team worked on other technology products (desktop monitors were in high demand at the time, King noted), and began reaching out to hotel companies in anticipation of the formal debut, sending some units out for testing.

Having a legacy name like Philips attached to the product helped attract interest once the product was ready to roll out to hoteliers, King added: “You're talking about establishing confidence in a hotel owner who's buying a product. I think that brand name gives them some confidence.” 

Since the product launched, PPDS has added additional apps like Apple TV to its lineup and partnered with property-management system integrators like Nonius, Nevotek and Imagine Soft. PPDS now has approximately 200 PMS options that work with MediaSuite. 

Philips’ return to the hospitality sector also brought several former colleagues back together. While people who had worked in the division had moved on to other roles, King had remained with Philips and remained interested in hotel technology. Once the company was ready to bring MediaSuite to the Americas, he was able to attract some former coworkers back to the team. “All of them see the potential of the product,” King said. “We're back. We're here to stay. It's a global product launch. And we're backed by a very large company [TPV] that will stand behind it. We're not sticking our toe in the water, but we're really going in with both feet.” 

Clicking with Clients

Attracting buyers for a new product for hotels in the midst of a pandemic and the nadir of a travel downturn was not easy, but King connected with hoteliers in whatever ways they were comfortable, whether in person or over video conferencing. “There were some people that we connected with in a coffee shop,” he recalled, “and there were other people that we were able to go see in person.” The company sent sample units to some hoteliers and had engineers consult with them remotely, and began attending conferences and conventions as in-person events started up again. In May 2021, PPDS formed a strategic partnership with AAHOA in order to participate in more than 200 AAHOA official networking and communication events scheduled to take place each year. 

Logic in Logistics

While PPDS is connecting with new clients, King said the company does not have “huge, ambitious growth goals.” Instead, the team members are forming connections with hoteliers and leveraging positive word of mouth to spark interest. “If someone wants to talk to an engineer, we want to make sure that engineer is there to speak with them,” he said. “If we need to have somebody on site, we want to make sure that somebody's on site.” While attending conferences, team members will drop by nearby partner hotels to make sure that everything is in order and to answer any questions. At one hotel King visited, one room was offline because the MediaSuite TV was not working. “We were there three hours until we figured out how to get that room back online.”