TV off to vacation

Rob Gallagher/Ovum
07 Sep 2015

Alongside soft beds and buffet breakfasts, a number of hotels are promoting a new feature – “connectivity panels” – which enable guests to connect their laptops, tablets, and other devices to in-room TV screens.

This seemingly mundane move actually highlights a fundamental shift in consumer expectations that many in the media business have yet to truly embrace – viewers really do expect to take their TV absolutely everywhere.

Hotels have historically taken advantage of the fact their guests are a captive audience, cut off from the products and services they enjoy at home. But just as mobiles and voice-over-IP services such as Skype have eroded the opportunity for hotels to charge extortionate rates for phone calls, so smart devices and over-the-top (OTT) video will eat into the use of their in-room TV offerings.

Essentially, what the hotels that are promoting connectivity panels understand is that a growing number of business travelers and vacationers would rather log in to BBC iPlayer, Netflix, or similar services they are familiar and comfortable with.

They still offer their own TV services, but many have also begun offering more content for free in line with the expectations of consumers used to catch-up TV and subscription-based video on-demand (SVOD) services.

But it’s a trend that not all hotels are willing to embrace, with few offering panels and some even disabling HMDI ports on in-room TV sets, presumably in a bid to preserve the revenues they make from movie rentals and access to premium channels.

Neither is the TV industry completely in tune with this “bring-your-own-media” trend. Netflix is leading, enabling subscribers to watch its services in the 50-plus markets where it is present.

The main restriction is that users can only access content licensed to the online video firm in that market. A United States-based subscriber visiting the United Kingdom, for example, would only be able to access the UK catalog of Netflix.

For other TV providers, it’s a bit of a mess. Many paid services cannot be accessed outside subscribers’ homes, let alone in other countries.

A number offer workarounds in the form of download-to-go services that allow users to transfer shows and movies to smartphones, tablets, and other devices to watch later, but these still fall some way short of the true on-demand experience customers really desire.

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