Sep 29, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Want to see the future of television? Well, check into the nearest hotel. Many in-room TVs now offer everything from video-on-demand to high-speed Internet to TiVo-like functions, such as rewind, fast-forward and even pause. During a recent stay at a Los Angeles-area Hilton, I ordered “Gigli,” the mother of all bombs, starring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. With the pause button, I could freeze the exact moment that Jen and Ben knew it was time to send back the wedding gifts.
The interactive services, which in-room entertainment providers LodgeNet and On Command added to Hilton and other properties this year, may not put more heads in beds, but they are bringing in more bucks. LodgeNet reports that three movies-“Bruce Almighty,” “Finding Nemo” and “The Matrix Reloaded”-each generated more than $1 million in orders in August. That number of million-dollar sellers was an all-time company record.
“The performance of `Bruce Almighty’ … demonstrates what can happen when a movie … is supported with compelling in-room marketing and technology,” said Holly Leff-Pressman, a senior VP for Universal, which produced the Jim Carrey film.
LodgeNet and On Command plan to offer high-definition TV in luxury hotels in the near future. David Bankers, senior VP of products and technology for LodgeNet, says his company will deliver “a picture quality many guests have never seen before.”
Hoteliers are giddy over the new revenues-and so are TV technology companies. Since cable and satellite TV operators have been rolling out interactive services at a snail’s pace, it’s been difficult to prove that U.S. consumers are actually interested in using them, much less paying extra for the privilege. However, for the first time, the TV technology industry can point to a real-life success.
In addition, millions of hotel guests are being exposed to new TV services, such as VOD and HDTV. When cable and satellite TV operators do offer those features, they won’t seem foreign to anyone who has stayed in a hotel lately. Of course, just because someone used a product in a hotel doesn’t mean it will eventually reach a mass audience. Just ask the creators of that coin-operated vibrating bed. But awareness is half the battle.
This point is not lost on Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HDNet, the hi-def network. Cuban has just purchased the 55-unit Landmark theater chain. My sources tell me that he will soon launch an HDTV film studio and eventually show hi-def films in Landmark theaters and others. Millions of moviegoers will see HDTV for the first time. The impact on sales of HD sets could be dramatic. (Cuban also plans to show his HD films exclusively on his two hi-def channels, HDNet and HDNet Movies. This will encourage cable operators to add those channels to their lineups.)
So the next time you’re in a movie theater, take note. What you see may soon be coming to a home near you.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.