Marriott Internet TVs vs Streaming Sticks
For the last few years Marriott has been rolling out Internet TVs into their properties. While Marriott is not alone, as the worlds largest hotel chain their adoption of Internet TVs in rooms is big news. They are also far and away the biggest chain to do so. Many competitors have not yet started a national effort to provide internet TV.
With the rollout of internet TVs it may leave you wondering if it’s even worth bringing a travel router and streaming stick with you on your next stay, especially if it’s at a Marriott hotel. We’re going to dive into what you get, what you don’t get, and how to handle the difference.
Marriott Internet TVs – An Overview
Marriott began rolling out internet TVs in 2016. Their internet TVs are extraordinarily easy to use. They are also appearing across their portfolio of 30 brands. We’ve personally seen them in everything from entry level Fairfield and Residence Inns all the way to full service Marriotts and Renaissance hotels.
What is usually offered on the TV.
- Hulu (select locations)
- Prime (select locations) – *NEW
- HBO Go (select locations, usually Residence Inns)
- Showtime (select locations)
Services Requiring Login
In order to use subscription services like Netflix, Pandora and Hulu you’ll need to enter your username and password. If you don’t already have a subscription you can sign up for a free trial within the system, but there is no special “free” access provided by the hotel. One exception is HBO Go.
Marriott system says it will automatically clear any entered usernames and passwords at checkout. In addition you can clear your username or password via a menu item. However, in our experience this wasn’t flawless. While most of the time it works fine, we have experienced a few times where we’ve checked into a hotel and had access to someone else’s Netflix profile. The internet TV app doesn’t let you gain access to any truly sensitive information but it is always a security risk to enter your username and password into a system you don’t control.
Services That Don’t Require A Login
A handful of the services such as Crackle, YouTube and when offered, HBO Go do not require a login. You can launch the app and watch from these services without any details. In the case of Crackle you can login if you have an account, but it’s not required.
HBO Go is great if you are in a hotel that offers it without a login, but most hotels don’t offer this. And if they don’t, there is no HBO Go (or HBO Now) app available. So, even if you have your own HBO subscription you can’t watch unless the hotel provides it complimentary. In our experience this was 10-15% of hotels, and primarily Residence Inns.
Likelihood Your Room Has Internet TV
As of early 2020 our experience is about 50-60% of Marriott rooms have internet TV. Older hotels that have remodeled or replaced TVs often add them, as do most new properties. Some older hotels and many mid-aged properties however do not have them yet.
While most chains have zero streaming built into their TVs, Marriott’s Internet TVs are still missing many of the popular internet streaming services.
- Amazon (select locations)
- Hulu (select locations)
- HBO Go (unless provided free with stay)/HBO Now/HBO Max
- Showtime (select locations)
- Apple TV Plus
- Fandango Now
- Direct TV Now
- Sling TV
In addition to these mainstream services there are now literally dozens of paid services from Curosity Stream to BritBox. If you are among the estimated 25.3 million cord cutting households in 2020, you probably don’t have nearly the entertainment experience on the road as you do at home. Even in the most progressive of hotel chains.
Streaming Sticks In Hotels
The answer for more and more of the 25.3 million cord cutters is to bring a streaming stick with them. While a few years ago this was rare, with 1 in 3 people cutting the cord combined with low cost of streaming and inexpensive price of streaming sticks it’s becoming more and more viable to bring your entertainment with you.
Even if you are not a cord cutter, the majority of traveling households now have at least one streaming service. While if your hotel offers Internet TV and you only subscribe to Netflix you are fine, many people have multiple services.
More Entertainment Choices
The biggest reason to bring your own streaming stick with you when traveling is simply the number of entertainment choices. Without even getting into the dozens of less mainstream services, you can easily see that most hotels don’t offer any streaming. And those that do offer only a few channels.
It doesn’t take long experiencing traditional linear TV to realize it isn’t a lot of fun to be around a hotel room without your favorite streaming channels.
Even when a hotel chain like Marriott does offer streaming and makes good attempts to protect your information, its never going to be flawless. Bringing your own streaming stick means you never have to enter your username and password into one of their TVs.
This is in addition to the fact that Marriott likely uses some of the data about how much time you spend at your TV, and potentially even which channels and shows you watch, as analytics. While some people may not mind this, those who are concerned with privacy are probably not excited about turning this information over without explicit permission.
Easier Than Ever To Do
There are a number of ways bringing your own streaming stick is easier than using internet TVs .
First, if you bring your own streaming stick you won’t need to enter your username and password at every hotel. For the once or twice a year weekly vacation crowd this isn’t much of a benefit. But those who travel or change hotels a lot, this is a big deal. There once was a joke that hell is entering usernames and passwords using a TV remote. It’s not fun.
Second, the restricted internet policies and slow speeds at hotels made it difficult to use streaming sticks. Although there are good options for streaming sticks that work on hotel wifi, there are still some options that won’t work at all.
In addition there is a whole segment of devices called Travel Routers designed specifically to help you create your own personal Wifi environment in places like hotels. Theses devices make it very easy to use your streaming stick, often with little additional setup. Some of them even allow you to use any streaming stick, even the ones that don’t normally work in hotels. The best of them even help make your hotel internet more reliable for better streaming.
It’s really exciting to see Marriott adopt Internet TVs. We can only hope in a few years that the coverage is nearly universal. We also hope more hotel chains get on board with the trend. For those of us who spend many nights a year in a hotel, it’s a savior from traditional linear TV.
It also shows that if you are one of so many people who primarily consume streamed TV, getting that same experience in hotels is a long way away. Also, for those who regularly travel with kids, not having easy access to their favorite shows can be downright painful.
It clearly is worth it those who travel regularly, consume most of their entertainment from streaming services, or have kids want their favorite shows to be accessible, to bring their own streaming device with them. Even in the cases where a travel router as a supporting device is necessary, it’s well worth it.