Whether watching network news or streaming a favorite sitcom, the pandemic made robust in-room entertainment an even more critical offering as travelers sought comfort in the safety of their rooms. Keeping pace with the rapid evolution of in-room entertainment is daunting, but having a trusted provider helps. HOTELS brought together Sam Kapadia, general manager, The Sheraton Mahwah, New Jersey, and Amir Ahmed, senior vice president of sales, DISH Business, to dig into the state of in-room entertainment and where it’s headed.
Sam Kapadia: How can we improve guest engagement with in-room entertainment?
Amir Ahmed: We know that the past year has been incredibly challenging for hoteliers. You’ve had to evaluate almost every aspect of the guest experience as you’ve implemented safety measures and looked for ways to increase engagement with the limited number of guests that were traveling. It’s been a changed environment for guests as well. They’ve spent more time in their rooms instead of venturing out to explore local restaurants and attractions. This means they’ve spent more time engaging with in-room entertainment, which has created a unique opportunity. When that has been a good experience — when they’ve been able to easily watch their desired programming when they want — it’s been an opportunity to delight guests and increase loyalty. If it hasn’t delivered on their expectations, that’s been noticed as well. Some of the industry’s largest brands have invested heavily to deploy their own proprietary solutions. Cost may seem like a barrier, particularly given the challenges of many hoteliers, but there are great solutions for properties of all sizes and types.
SK: How have entertainment expectations changed?
AA: Recent studies show that the average household has four subscription streaming services. At home, people can watch a streaming service or live TV when and where they choose, but that often isn’t the case when they check into a hotel. We know replicating every at-home experience isn’t possible but making it easy for guests to watch their favorite programming is an impactful way to increase engagement and loyalty. Giving guests multiple ways to access their favorite apps through casting, pairing or logging in increases the likelihood that they’ll be able to watch what they want, when and where they want.
SK: How can hoteliers meet these expectations without an unmanageable expenditure?
AA: The technology to deliver an integrated entertainment experience for hotel guests has evolved, becoming more affordable and accessible. It’s no longer only limited to huge brands or luxury properties. Advances in video delivery platforms, like SMARTBOX 2 by DISH Business (available in October) will make these experiences more widely accessible. SMARTBOX 2 will offer up to 192 live HD channels and twice the efficiency of SMARTBOX — all at a more affordable price.
SK: Are streaming services replacing traditional TV watching?
AA: The use of subscription streaming services has increased, but that varies widely by demographic; for tens of millions of households, streaming is a supplement to live TV and not a replacement. According to a recent study by Enseo, TV viewing by hotel guests was up almost 50% in August 2020 compared to the previous year with streaming services showing a larger increase than traditional TV, though both were up significantly. The on-demand nature of streaming is convenient, but guests still want to watch live news and sports. We believe that the best experience provides the most options with an intuitive interface to simplify discovery.
SK: What are some new ways to drive brand awareness through in-room entertainment?
AA: Some entertainment platforms allow for property-level branding, integration of property-specific channels and integration with the property’s PMS. OnStream from DISH Business provides a unique way to promote brand awareness by giving guests access to live TV channels provided by the hotel on their personal devices.
SK: What’s the next big thing in in-room entertainment?
AA: Entertainment options will continue to expand; we’ll regularly see streaming services enter and leave the market, which highlights the importance of finding a solution that is built to be flexible. I also believe we’ll continue to see a convergence of guest entertainment and connectivity. The TV continues to play a critical role in entertainment, but I think it will likely also play a bigger role in guest engagement with property amenities and even smart products. The best way to prepare is to find a great partner that can help you navigate the technology options of today and tomorrow.
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