When you walk in many hotels, one of the many pieces of furniture that stands out is the hotel TV. In many hotels now, these TVs can be 42″ or more and are high-definition entertainment units. That makes it easy to watch, but the part that makes it hard is that the hotel guest is completely at the mercy of the hotel’s entertainment system. Even some of the high-end hotels do not offer full cable options. In fact, some foreign hotels offer barely any English-speaking programming – that cannot be too helpful to those of us who want to watch what we are familiar with!
Of course, the hotel offers their own offering – pay-per-view movies/shows that command a very high price for a 24-hour period. I have never purchased one and do not know many people who have. Obviously, some people must because hotels keep their prices high. So, there is not an option to watch programming/movies that you want to.
Use Hotel TVs For Your Content
But wait! Yes, there is! Even though many hotel TVs are not ready-made to receive your own media content (through HDMI from your computer, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, gaming console, etc), there are still ways to get into those TVs. Here are some ways to do that.
Many hotels have moved towards media interface units. These are mounted into the entertainment console or on the desk. They have multiple inputs to allow for almost anything you could plug in. These are definitely the easiest of TVs to use and Hilton has the most customer-friendly hotels that I have been in with these interfaces. With these, there is nothing for you to do but to plugin and go!
Unplug the Interface
The most common method of isolating the TV from the customer is a network interface box on the back of the TV. To be able to access the TV inputs, all you need to do is unplug the ethernet cable from the interface box. That is it – nothing that is unrepairable and you simply plug it back in again when you leave. Note: some hotels may use a different interface cable and attachment, but the principle is the same.
Remote Control Lock
Another aspect of the locked down hotel entertainment system is the remote control. They use generic remotes that are matched to their hotel systems. In other words, the remote in the room is rarely the one that came with the TV and so it does not have many of the functions that allow you to input another device. The main button missing from many of these remotes is the Source button – this allows you to take it away from the hotel inputs and redirect it to the HDMI or whatever input you are using.
Again, this too may be locked down. While you are behind the TV, look for a small cable plugged into the Remote jack. Unplugging that will allow you to use a different remote with the TV.
What You Need
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Ok, so now that you know what to do to gain access to the TV’s inputs and remote control, what do you need to take advantage of this? First of all, you need some kind of a remote. If you have any of the late-model Android phones that have the IR port, you should be all set. You will just need to have some type of remote app to make use of it (Peel is a popular one and the one I use) and you can control just about any TV. You will go through and select the manufacturer and then, one by one, a code will be sent to the TV to see if it turns on. Once it turns on, you say that code works and you know have full remote control of the TV – including the all-important Source command (to switch the input to HDMI).
If your phone does not have that capability, a universal remote control can also work. The best rated one is the Harmony 650 Universal Remote control. It prides itself on having the widest range of equipment compatibility. It goes for just under $60 and may be very worth it if you travel a lot. Even if you don’t travel a lot, you can still buy it for use at home and on the road (though your family may not be happy if you take the only working remote with you!).
Something else you will need is a HDMI cable (to connect your device to the TV) and some type of entertainment unit (unless you will be using your computer). It can be a portable DVD player, or a Google Chromecast, or an Apple TV, or a Roku, or even the new Amazon Fire TV (which is currently on sale for $84). Any of these devices should work fine with the TVs in hotels. The one place you might have an issue is with the page to access the WiFi if you have to sign in to the hotel screen to do so. To get around that, pick up my favorite hotel accessory to make your connection easier.
Why Do This?
If you are only in a hotel for one short night, it may not make sense to do this. However, when I am at a hotel, I like to be able to watch a baseball game or two (through the MLB.TV system) or something else available on the wide range of entertainment apps available through these devices. Even if the hotel offers ESPN, I still want to watch my Yankees play :), so having my own device and being able to plug it in makes my hotel stay a little more tailored to me.
This is even more applicable in some foreign countries. There is nothing quite like being in a hotel that only offers TV channels that seem to make you feel as if being an American is a dangerous thing. 🙂 A little touch of a home TV station can be nice!
If you feel uncomfortable doing any/all this, you can always ask the hotel engineer to help you connect up your device so that you can catch a game or something else that is not available on their system. I have done this in the past and found them to be quite helpful, though you also run the chance of having them shut you down. It is up to you!
Of course, these little tips will not work with all hotel TVs. I have used them for a wide variety of TVs at various hotel chains and found them to be just right. Your mileage may vary. But, if it does work for you, your next hotel stay might feel just a little more like home! 🙂
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