smart spending

Save money by watching Internet television

The new comforts of home

"Cable TV will be a thing of the past," predicts Eric Cruz, IT director of the Mandarin Oriental New York hotel, who is overseeing its conversion to IPTV infrastructure. The goal is to provide the guest with the personalized selection now that they will soon have available at home and the kind of service that keeps them coming back.

"With IPTV, you can pick and choose channels almost like a Chinese menu," he says.

"Say Mr. Smith checks in. We know he loves fishing. We're going to have our standard lineup, but we're also going to keep a reserve of 10 fishing and boating channels and call it Mr. Smith's channel, and he'll be able to access that on his room TV. He'll totally be baffled at how we're able to offer so much of his preferred programming readily available to him."

Forget video on demand, says Cruz: the hotel room of the future will be a guest-controlled multimedia docking station.

"We realize that our guests are traveling with iPods and Netflix accounts, and they're not buying our movies. So why am I going to design a system that forces someone to buy a movie? That only upsets them," he says.

"When you visit our rooms, you have a multitude of connections. You don't have to sit on your bed with your laptop burning you because the guys in the hotel blocked you from watching your movie on your TV. Enjoy it on our 46-inch screen. It's better that way," Cruz says.

All these changes won't come without a price, of course. As narrowcasting adds households, advertisers will suddenly have the kind of detailed demographic information they could only guesstimate before, such as who specifically is watching a given program and when.

"IPTV is going to add some new wrinkles to advertising," Gartner's Jopling says. "Now, if you advertise on a sports show, for example, you have a pretty good idea who is going to be watching that, and you tune your advertising to it. But there are lots of other shows that aren't that demonstrative on who the audience is.

”Because IPTV just sends you the channel you want, it gives advertisers significant knowledge of what you want and when you want it, so you'll begin to see much more targeted advertising," Jopling said.

Until then, the thrust and parry between telecommunications firms and the cable companies for your business bodes well for cost-conscious consumers.

"Whenever there are two people fighting for your love, it's always a good sign," Jopling says.

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