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Hotels upgrade to more interactive TVs

Jul. 6, 2013 - 04:20PM   |  
By NANCY TREJOS   |   Comments

MINNEAPOLIS — Hotel television sets are not only starting to look sleeker, they’re getting smarter.

The hotel TV is rapidly evolving from something you watch to something you interact with.

You can log on to Facebook or Skype, get information about local attractions, browse the room-service menu and even sync the TV with your smartphone or tablet.

TV manufacturers at the recent HITEC hotel technology conference showed off the hotel TV of the future, and it’s looking a lot like what you would buy for your home.

“The same content and services you see at home are now arriving at the hotel level,” says Mike Brooks, senior director of program management for Philips Hospitality Video Solutions.

Glenn Haussman, executive editor of industry publication, says deciding how to modernize the in-room entertainment system has been a vexing challenge for hotels. “Figuring out precisely where consumer desires will be in five years is tough, let alone six months from now,” he says.

More travelers are showing up at hotels with their tablets loaded with their own entertainment, eliminating the need or desire to order videos-on-demand that cost more than a movie theater ticket.

Movie rental revenue per occupied room, meanwhile, dropped 23 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to PKF Hospitality Research.

“Hotel operators must find a way to get between their customers and their devices in engaging ways that will get customers to spend more money on-site,” Haussman says.

Here are some features TV manufacturers and content providers were showing off at the HITEC conference:

■Bigger screens and better picture quality. Hotels are switching their LCD TVs (liquid crystal display) to LED TVs (light-emitting diode), which have clearer images.

■Interactive content. On Samsung TVs, you can log on to Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Google and other social networks. You can also look at a listing of local attractions, order room service or get messages from the hotel.

■Syncing of mobile devices or tablets with the TV. Imagine buying a movie from the hotel and watching it on your tablet at the lobby bar? Or watching a show on the hotel TV that you downloaded onto your tablet before you checked in? That’s all a possibility with Quadriga Worldwide’s Personal Media Network, which can be downloaded from the App Store or from a Web link once you check in.

■Buy content you’d normally have no access to. What if you’re on a business trip in California, but you want to see that Cornell University basketball game that wouldn’t air outside of New York? Sonifi Solutions has come up with a solution. “Most of these events are being filmed, but they’re not distributed to a national audience,” says Tom Storey, president of hospitality for Sonifi. “We have the ability to capture that content, and we can make that content available to individuals for purchase.”

Nancy Trejos reports for USA Today.

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