Following Marriott’s Lead, Starwood’s Aloft Pilots an In-Room Streaming Service
Starwood’s tech-forward select-service brand, Aloft Hotels, is following in its soon-to-be-parent company’s footsteps with its newest pilot program.
This week, the brand announced it is testing out a new media streaming solution from TeleAdapt at the 188-room Aloft New Orleans Downtown.
With RoomCast Powered by Chromecast, hotel guests can stream all of their favorite media from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and more, directly onto their guest room TV without having to download an app or sign into their accounts.
Last June, Marriott International announced a partnership with Netflix whereby guests at select properties can sign into their existing Netflix accounts using the Netflix app on Internet-connected TVs. It marked the first time a hotel brand allowed its guests direct access to Netflix and by the end of this year, all of its U.S. properties are expected to have this in-room technology available.
Aloft’s streaming technology, however, doesn’t require guests to sign into their accounts or to enter any personal information. Each room in the pilot program has its own wireless personal area network and contains a Chromecast media streaming device resembling a puck. It comes with four simple instructions for guests to follow. From there, all a guest has to do is join the in-room network, open any cast-enabled app from their Android or iOS phone, and tap the “Cast” button to start watching their favorite content on the TV.
There’s no extra cost for the service, and no need to buy or upgrade Wi-Fi access, either. No personal information is divulged, because guests are already logged in via their own devices. When using Marriott’s Netflix service, a guest has to login using their password information (but that information is cleared when they check out). Aloft guests can also continue to use their connected smartphones to check email, text message, or make phone calls.
“It’s always important to us and the guests and the psychographic we speak to to make sure that they have control,” sais Sarah Downing, vice president of global guest initiatives for Aloft Hotels. “The landscape is changing. Every traveler wants to be in control of their own experiences. They can use their own phone, tablet, laptop, or mobile app to enjoy what they normally enjoy when they are home or when they are on the road. The technology allowed us to give guests what they are looking for without compromising what they need to do.”
Giving Guests What They Want
Consumers’ preferences for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu over traditional and cable TV continue to grow. At the end of 2015, Netflix reported having nearly 75 million streaming customers around the world, nearly 45 million of whom are based in the U.S. All of those members combined, Netflix reported, watched a total of 42.5 billion hours of media in 2015 alone.
Research from Convergence Consulting Group estimates the growth of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu far exceeding that of traditional cable TV in 2016. In 2015, U.S. revenue for services like Netflix and Hulu grew 29% to $5.1 billion, and revenue from cable, satellite, and telco TV was $105 billion. In 2016, the group predicted revenues of $6.7 billion (a 31% increase) for streaming services and just $107 billion (only a 2% jump) for cable, satellite, and telco TV.
Enjoying streaming services in their rooms is something more and more consumers desire, too. An Accenture report also found more than half of U.S. consumers watch TV via the Internet and when Marriott piloted its own Netflix partnership, the percentage of guests using any of the available Internet apps on their guest room TVs was as high as 26%, with a majority of them choosing Netflix.
An Oracle Hospitality survey of more than 9,000 millennials in eight different countries found that 55% would like to be able to connect their mobile devices in hotel rooms to enjoy in-room entertainment.
The Future of In-Room Streaming at Hotels
Right now, there’s no set end date for the current pilot program at the Aloft New Orleans Downtown. If it proves to be successful over time, however, Downing said the company would consider expanding the feature to other Aloft properties, as well as to other brands within the Starwood family.
Prior to beginning the pilot at the New Orleans hotel, Starwood tested the new technology at a select number of rooms at the Aloft Charlotte Ballantyne and the Aloft London Excel. Downing said that guest feedback from those properties indicated that guests loved “the seamlessness of it.” She said, “They were accessing their own content and didn’t need to download any additional app or software to be able to use it.”
Marriott and Aloft aren’t the only brands offering in-room streaming services, however. A number of individual properties, such as the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, have partnered with similar tech providers like Sonifi Solutions, which offers its own version of in-room streaming powered by Google’s Chromecast.
And until more brands and properties begin offering in-room streaming services, there’s also the option of bringing your very own streaming stick, like Roku, which can be easily plugged into an HDMI-enabled TV. Or just hoping the Wi-Fi in the hotel is strong enough to support watching Orange Is the New Black or House of Cards on your laptop or tablet.