Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hotels Switching to Flat Screen and HDTV Costly

Many of the nation’s hotel chains are bowing to consumer pressure and replacing their old picture tube TVs with new L.C.D. and plasma flat screens, but most have failed to take that one last step: adding high-definition service.

As a result, the widescreen high-definition-capable flat panels in many hotels often show standard definition analog TV. To fill the screen, the old-style squarish images are stretched, resulting in wider-than-normal heads and bodies.

Stretching the image has another undesirable result: it reduces the image resolution, making the picture on the new flat-panel TV look worse than it would have on a standard picture tube set.

The industry is moving to flat-panel TVs because as more consumers buy them, they want the conveniences of their homes to be in their hotels. But hotels have been slow to install HDTV because of the cost.

At Hilton, all rooms will have flat-panel TVs and HDTV service by June 2009. In addition, any newly built hotels must make HDTV part of their offerings.

Among the other Hilton properties, Embassy Suites will have flat-panel TVs in all suites by April. Doubletree and Hilton Garden Inn rooms will have HDTV by the end of 2009, and Homewood Suites by the end of 2010.

At Hyatt, 25,000 rooms, or 40 percent of its total, now have flat-panel sets, with 15,000 on order. Hyatt has also increased the size of its sets from 32 to 37 inches, with 42-inch plasma TVs in its suites. All rooms will have flat-panel TVs by early 2011.

The company’s moderately priced Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites brands use only flat-panel TVs and offer HDTV service in all rooms.

“The demand for HD is so great, it is exceeding our available capital,” said Scott Young, LodgeNet’s president and chief marketing officer. “We are looking for new funding options.” One possibility: the hotel would pay for the new equipment and LodgeNet would take a reduced fee to manage and support the service.

As hotels nationwide embrace the flat-panel TV, it brings an end to another part of hotel culture. “We will have no more TVs in an armoire,” a Ritz-Carlton spokeswoman said.

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