Just Like Home

In his blog “Inn-Sane” last summer, Trevor Warner, president of Warner Consulting Group, said about DirecTV’s newest offering to hotels, “DirecTV is introducing the ‘home experience,’ which may change everything from technology to decision-making moving forward.” (Full disclosure: Warner’s blog is part of the LodgingMagazine.com community of blogs.) That was shortly after the satellite content provider announced the launch of its “Residential Experience,” a content system for hotels that allows them to offer their guests the same viewing experience that they enjoy at home—same channels, same lineup, same everything. Nearly a year later, Warner’s observation is starting to come to fruition.

In January, P&F USA, the exclusive licensee for Philips Hospitality in North America, and DirecTV announced the world’s first fully integrated residential television experience for hotels at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. P&F USA becomes the first hotel television provider to offer the DirecTV Residential Experience as an integrated solution for hotels, with the new line of televisions shipping in the second quarter of this year. Indeed, the fact that hotel guests have clamored for a more home-like television viewing experience has changed the game when it comes to content and equipment in hotels.

Warner also explained that, “under the new plan DirecTV will not require Pro:Idiom. Instead it will use a small set-top box that can go behind the TV or behind the furniture. Because the TV can pass through the remote signal, the box does not have to be visible. By not requiring Pro:Idiom, a hotel could save $150 per TV.”

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So in addition to making guests feel more comfortable with the guestroom TV, thus increasing guest satisfaction scores, the emerging trend in hotel TV viewing can potentially save hotel owners and operators costs. The P&F USA offering takes that idea one step further—it eliminates the box altogether, instead creating an all-in-one package for hotels to install TVs and offer the residential experience at once.

“What we’ve basically done is take the concept that [DirecTV] has done, which is the use of the set-top box, and built that set-top box into our television,” says Joe King, senior director of hospitality sales at P&F USA. “The goal is to take what has become a difficult transition for hotels as they move from not only a typical TV to a flat-screen, but also from the analog to digital television world. To make that transition easier, we are combining the display and the content in one device.”

King says that the product won’t be available until late May but P&F USA has exposed it to hoteliers. “We already have owners who say they want it,” King says.

The new technology combines the idea of making the viewing experience similar to how a viewer interacts with his or her TV at home while in the hotel. Content-wise, that is what DirecTV is bringing to market for hotels with its Residential Experience. On the unit side of things, the new TV technology is making installing units in a hotel similar to installing TVs in a home for hoteliers.

“Certainly it brings an ease of operational efficiency. You can imagine that if you’re a hotel owner, today you are getting content from XYZ content provider and you’re getting your display from a display company. What we are trying to do is not just bring the content and display together, but also with DirecTV bring them that residential experience to the hotel,” King says.
The move toward homestyle viewing is taking off in the industry. “One of the most frustrating things for travelers is that they are not getting the TV experience they get at home in a hotel environment,” King says.

Typically, hotels offer 10 to 15 high-definition channels. The reason is that the cost of getting those high-def channels into the hotel can be pricey. “DirecTV figured out a way to bring 90 to more than 100 high-def channels to hotels,” King says. “I think what many travelers want is that the high-definition channels they get at home be the same as they get in hotels. That’s been the feedback for us from hoteliers.”

Warner, in his blogs, pointed out that same benefit for hotels. “Roughly 120 HD channels and 100 analog channels for $12 per room per month (3yr) and $10 per room per month (5yr),” he wrote about the Residential Experience. Warner also pointed out potential drawbacks. “Hotels will need to have the proper cable infrastructure with the least amount of splits along the deliver path. Most hotels will not have an issue but the older hotels with older cabling that’s been repaired multiple times may have issues turning up this service in all their rooms,” he wrote.

It might be worth the cost when considering the guest satisfaction benefits. As technology like P&F USA’s soon-to-debut TVs evolve, those drawbacks may disappear.

Warner also points out that cable companies will most likely get into this act at some point, creating a competitive market.

The winner will be a hotel guest who may no longer need to fumble around his room for the channel guide or scroll through several channels to find the one he is looking for. The Residential Experience features the same channel lineup and on-screen guide as any home DirecTV system. “For the hotel guest, ESPN will be on the same channel as it is at home,” King says.

It’s a recipe for increasing guest satisfaction, and hoteliers and technology providers are watching the trend’s progress.