Today’s guest wants choice—whether that choice is a dynamic linear lineup, extensive on-demand selections or the ability to cast bring-your-own content to the guestroom TV. And since no one wants to spend all night figuring out how to use the system, in-room entertainment has to be easy and intuitive.
Nick Jones, EVP, World Cinema, said, “People now are used to having what they want to watch when they want to watch it. Now, you’ve got a lot of these folks that are called cable cutters—they already have what they want to watch with them, so if they want to watch on TV vs. a five- or six-in. screen, all the better.”
Alistair Chatwin, director of commercial, Dish, noted, “What’s interesting is not every single person is the same. Options are really the key to being able to back the major trends. Since Marriott deployed Netflix into the guestroom and brought in a guest’s content on the TV, the whole industry has looked at that and said we’ve got to give them more choice… The major trends are easy navigation, but also the ability to let them watch their own content or expand the content the hotel can offer with the package they’re paying for.”
Jones agreed, noting access to apps like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube is important. “We’re working on bringing things like HBO and Showtime on demand, so if the hotel subscribes to that channel, we want to give guests access to the entire library of content,” he said. “Pretty much everyone has their own on-demand content now, so we’re working with these folks to extend that to the hotel guest and not just the residential subscriber. We’re also, in parallel, bringing casting technology so you can take whatever’s on your phone and cast it directly up to the TV.”
The baseline, said Chris Dinallo, ADB’s chief technology officer and general manager, Americas business TV, is HD televisions; fewer than two seconds to change channels; a program guide; and the lack of blank or duplicate channels. But now, guests want personalization. “They want the hotelier to know personal preferences,” he said. “If I’m a loyalty member, I have already agreed to giving some personal information. In that agreement, I expect that to carry forward, so I would love to walk into my hotel room and not only have a greeting with my name, but I want it to tune to my favorite channels.”
Other trends include smart mirror technology, two-way digital messaging and voice-enabled applications. Guests also want to be able to enable other technologies. “A lot of people like watching TV with Bluetooth headphones while others are sleeping,” Chatwin said.
Jones added that integration will be important as this evolves. “We’re working on bringing a lot more functionality of the guestroom to your mobile phone, so you can still use the remote control, the light switches, thermostat, but have the ability to control all that on the phone,” he said.
But while operators are looking to add choice, they’re not looking to add cost. “Besides the fact that they want to give more choice, it can’t be at much higher operational or deployment costs,” Chatwin said. “It’s very important to tie those pieces together when they’re looking at the system.”
When it comes to buying, hotel owners and operators need to look for flexibility. Dinallo said, “That would be what I would say to them: Pick a system you can grow with… Be agnostic to technologies. Technologies are always going to change and change quickly.”
That being said, hoteliers do need to do a little bit of future proofing. “Property owners and management companies need to keep this in mind: Is it easier to have a single solution for all of their properties or better to have different solutions in every property? From our point of view, one solution [is better],” Chatwin said. “You’ve got to think about more than the one property you’re trying to renovate right now.”
Jones agreed. “Make sure you’ve got a company you can count on to support the technology. They’re typically five- and seven-year contracts, so the technology has to last that long. Make sure the integrator and folks you’re working with will be there to support the product, continuing to innovate and refine,” he said.