Q&A: LodgeNet Grows HD, Despite Non-Tech Obstacles

Matt Sandvold is senior director of technology and content implementation at LodgeNet Interactive Corporation, which says it currently serves more than 1.9 million hotel rooms representing 9,300 hotel properties worldwide, as well as a network of healthcare facilities in the United States. Sandvold recently spoke with HD Notebook:

HD Notebook: How is your overall rollout of HD units proceeding as the final analog cutoff in America approaches?

Sandvold: Supporting our customers as they install HDTV sets is a huge initiative currently—especially with the February ‘09 HD mandate for end of analog off-air broadcasts and for the FCC mandate back in ‘07 for the mandate of all TVs to contain ATSC tuners. Most major hotel brands have mandated standards for their flags that include the installation of flat panel HDTVs by the end of ‘09, and with these deadlines they’re concerned the individual hotels make the proper decisions to get the content into rooms and displayed properly in a hotel environment. As each brand migrates, the others will need to keep up with the technology and with customer expectations.

HD Notebook: How extensive is your HD ramp-up among your clients at this point here in February 2008?

Sandvold: We have heard from some of the TV manufacturers themselves and their estimates are that there are between 650,000 and 700,000 total flat-panel [HD] displays deployed today—from among an estimated 5.6 million available hotel rooms.

HD Notebook: What technical and/or marketing hurdles, if any, might you be encountering as you grow your HD offerings?

Sandvold: The largest technical hurdle is there are many TV manufacturers in the market, but very few that carry commercial models, and even fewer that understand the hospitality market and the obstacles that are encountered in a “re-broadcast” environment. The content providers are very concerned about protecting their products and are doing everything they can to ensure their revenues are not eroded by illegal copying. So due to the tight security restraints from these providers, many of the commercial TV manufacturers have added technologies into their panels that provide security. However, many hotels are not aware of, or familiar with, why security is important. So [lack of security] “education” could be listed as a hurdle, as well. Getting proper information to the hotels so they can make educated decisions is very difficult.

Addressing all the issues raised by our customers as they roll out HD is a key priority going forward. We’ve developed our Certified Installation Program to provide a turn-key solution for customers planning their HD Migration.