What’s Ahead For Guestroom TV Programming?

It’s a proven fact that hotel guests love TV. Most of them want high-quality TV sets and, more importantly, compelling programming in high-definition. We chatted with Brian Venable, director of hospitality sales & marketing for HBO, to discuss the current and future state of hospitality guestroom TV programming:

How have guest expectations changed in regard to guestroom entertainment?
They haven’t changed that much, and they’ve always been extremely high. The hotel industry has struggled at times to keep up with the technologies their guests have in their homes. When hotel guests started seeing flat-screen TVs in their rooms they were wowed. Even though there has been a solid roll-out of HD programming in the hotel industry, guests are now, instead of being wowed when they see flat-screen, they’re caught off guard when the TVs don’t have HD. Prices for flat-screen have dropped to a point where nearly every consumers gets one when they buy a new TV, and they’re getting the full HD service with it. So it doesn’t serve hotels well when a guest walks into a room and is wowed by a flat-screen but disappointed when they turn on the remote.

Do guests also expect a wide array of programming like they have in their home?
Television offerings have increased drastically in homes but not necessarily in hotels. It’s probably unrealistic for a hotel room to have 700 channels, but guests do question why they have 150 channels at home but a hotel may only have 25. So if a hotel can’t give guests the 150 channels they have at home, they’ve got to make sure they have the right selection of channels.

Why is free-to-guest an advantage over guest-pay channels?
I don’t think there is necessarily an advantage because many properties have both offerings and do extremely well. While the majority of guests don’t use pay-per-view, they have the expectations of quality programming in their rooms. The difference between HBO and other channels is that consumers pay a premium in their homes for HBO and when they stay in a property with HBO they recognize the value the hotel is providing to them.

What kinds of programming are most popular with guests?
It runs pretty close to what you see in the residential side. While original programming gets a lot of the buzz, especially in the press, our research has consistently shown that theatricals are also extremely important. Movies make up 56 percent of our programming. About 17 percent of programming are original series. HBO in generally skews male, about 53 percent. One of the things we’ve seen an uptick is in hotels adding tiers of programming, such as HBO Family or HBO Plus.

What will be the future of guestroom programming in the hotel industry?
The hotel industry lags behind in technology, which probably makes sense because you don’t know which of these things will take off, and hotels don’t want to invest in technologies that might be fly by night. We’ve done extremely well in the consumer market with our video-on-demand product, and it has changed the landscape of how people view television. Hopefully, we will soon see that come to the hotel industry.
While more guests are bringing their own content into hotel guestrooms to view them on their laptops or iPods, most people still want to see their favorite programming on a big-screen TV, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Another new thing to watch for is 3D television.

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