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New app turns smartphone into a hotel room TV remote control By Barbara DeLollis, USA TODAY
Starting today, travelers in about 500,000 hotel rooms across the USA will have the ability to channel surf using their smartphones instead of an old-fashioned remote control. LodgeNet, the biggest provider of hotel room television entertainment, has created a free app the LodgeNet Mobile App that turns iPhones, iPads and Androids into remote controls. Besides serving as a remote for free TV channels, pay-per-view movies and on-demand TV episodes, the app also contains information about the hotel, local events, attractions, directions and restaurants. About 2,000 hotels that carry LodgeNet’s TV systems have been updated to accept the app’s controls, LodgeNet CEO Scott Petersen says. Once the app is downloaded, users see a screen with directions on how to link to a specific hotel TV. The app can even let guests turn off their TVs from outside their rooms. LodgeNet expects the free app to be a hit for many reasons, such as being able to avoid handling a dirty remote. Studies have indicated that a TV remote is one of the dirtiest items in a hotel room. Dealing with a remote with dying batteries could also be a hassle of the past. Forty percent of users ages 18 to 34 prefer to control their TVs with a smartphone or tablet instead of a remote, Petersen says, citing data from Altman Vilandrie Co. and Research Now. Keeping track of a phone or iPad can also be easier when watching TV in bed, because many of today’s travelers have a closer relationship with their smartphones than with a hotel’s remote. “The remote I can never keep track of,” says Greg Marquez, 36, of Chicago. “I’m always texting or Facebooking, so I always have my phone on me.” LodgeNet’s Petersen says the app can make selecting TV channels and pay-per-view movie faster because users touch the specific channel they want instead of scrolling through those they don’t. In addition to controlling channels, the on-off switch and volume, the app will provide a program guide and a menu for LodgeNet’s pay-per-view movies and TV shows on demand. The app won’t contain all LodgeNet’s movie titles. Out of sensitivity to tech-savvy children, it will exclude adult offerings. For orders of movies and on-demand TV episodes, the app gives users an option of charging it to their room or paying separately, so it doesn’t appear on the hotel bill. It’s possible the app could inject some excitement into the ailing pay-per-view-movie sales business, Petersen says. According to LodgeNet, 98% of guests turn on the TVs in their hotel rooms.
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