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HDTV Insights: Are You Wasting Money & Losing Guests with Your HDTV?


Consider the average in-room TV fifty years ago. The TV was black and white and very fuzzy (Color TV was not available yet), and a guest often had to slide a 25 cent coin in a slot at intervals or the TV would shut off. Both the coin requests and the average TV quality would have been annoying to any guest.

Fast forward to the present day. Very little has changed. Although the hotelier now pays for the TV and the content, and the TV has gotten much flatter, the quality, in many cases, has gotten worse.

What, you ask? After spending more than 150 nights a year in hotels around the world, I can attest that this statement is true. Today's TV sets are in a 16.9 format, digital, and some are in HD. However, that doesn't mean that all video content is broadcast in that format. I have seen too many properties that have attempted to fill the full TV screen to its maximum. This leads to large distorted images on the screen, or portions of the top and/or bottom are cut off. To make matters worse, the color adjustments are not set properly and we now have green or bright red people with disproportionate bodies. (Halle Berry, what have they done to you?)

Expecting their in-room TV to at least meet the quality of their home televisions, many guests get upset, and surely make a mental note regarding their next visit to that property. This is only the beginning. Forget about PPV revenue. The guest will not want to pay to see such a poor quality distorted picture. You may even lose that repeat guest.

Technology must-haves
To meet today's standards, hoteliers must also have a pro:idiom compatible set. Many sets that were bought just 3 or 4 years ago are not compliant with these standards. Therefore, the hotelier faces replacing non pro:idiom TV sets, or paying for an expensive work around. One of Hospitality Automation Consultants' clients was getting ready to spend over $100,000 on new TV sets until we showed them an inexpensive solution. The words "commercial TV set" do not mean "Hospitality" -- these are two different technologies.

HDMI: Yes your sets are all connected via HDMI cables, so you're OK. But are you? What version of HDMI cable are you using? There are many different versions being specified and used in hotels today. The ones that are in most common use today are HDMI V1.3. (For discussion sake, we won't get into the subcategory issue.) If you are using the 60Hz HDTV in your rooms, you are fine. However, if you are using 120Hz or 240Hz HDTV, you must use HDMI V 1.4 cable. Otherwise, do not waste your money on these sets and just buy 720P sets and use any good quality HDMI 1.3 cable. Remember, this cable must run from the HD signal source to the HDTV. The least expensive method is to run the HDMI cable from a STB (Set Top Box) to the HDTV. Do not use cable runs with HDMI cables longer than five meters. Anything longer, and amplification must be used. An internal infrastructure of RG 6 is mandatory.

Best practices
The HDTV field is loaded with landmines. You do not have to step on these; there are many good vendors and consultants available to assist you. Make sure that the vendor has your interests at heart, and offers many different brands. Check with your content provider as well. Make sure that the services you want are offered. Utilize the expertise of a good hospitality consultant who knows this subject well and has had a lot of experience with the different TV and content providers. Do not have your in-house maintenance person set up your HDTV sets. They can install it, but bring in a professional to have the color and screen resolutions settings adjusted correctly.

Look to the future. We are in the midst of a content and technical period of innovation and rapid advances. Interactive TV will soon be commonplace as will 3-D HDTV and in-room teleconferencing. Internet Video is already here.

Each year at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) we observe dramatic increases in TV technology. Prices continue to decrease and quality and screen sizes continue to increase. Remember to "think green." LED HDTVs exceed all ENERGY STAR requirements and may even result in tax credits that will actually help defray your HDTV costs. They will also cut your electrical bills considerably over conventional, same size screen LCD or Plasma TVs. Your room HDTV sets should have the following as a minimum: 720P, 2 HDMI ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Pro:Idiom compliancy, Ethernet connectivity, WiFi enabled, smart media card capability, iPod connectivity, VGA input, and a coax connector. Remember, these are minimum requirements.

In part two of this series, learn which technologies can save your company money in infrastructure and legal video content fees for real-time, VOD and streaming Internet content.

Les Spielman is CEO and founder of Hospitality Automation Consultants Ltd., an independent consulting firm with more than 30 years of hands on experience in the lodging industry. Spielman has served two elected consecutive terms on the Board of Directors of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants and is a proud member of HTNG. His practice is global with associated offices in Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and PRC.

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