Click to the Concierge: More Hotels Offer Interactive TV

Hotel room TV sets finally are catching up to tech-savvy guests.

Photo: Darren Booth for CNBC

More hoteliers, especially high-end properties, are outfitting rooms with sleek sets that act more like computers and concierges. Offering modern TVs isn't something hotels have always done, despite technology-conscious consumers.

"You can't have worse technology in the room than you have at home when you're paying $400 a night," says Katherine Doggrell, editor of Hotel Analyst Distribution & Technology. "You can't walk in and say, 'I had that TV 20 years ago.'"

Sunstone Hotels, which owns 32 properties, has purchased about 15,000 flat-panel sets for its hotel rooms in the last seven years to replace old cathode-ray-tube TV sets.

"If we're not focusing on technology, then we've lost sight of what we're supposed to be doing," says Bob Combie, vice president of asset management for Sunstone.

Sets on display at the recent HITEC hotel technology conference in Baltimore lets viewers order room service, log onto Facebook , and transfer content to and from their smartphones.

Here's what you can expect to find in your hotel rooms this year, as more hotel chains upgrade their TV sets:

  • Better picture quality. New TVs squeeze in more pixels and have a higher contrast ratio between the brightest and darkest parts of the picture.
  • Bigger screens. You won't find many 32-inch TVs in hotel rooms anymore. As TVs get cheaper, hotels are trading up. Sunstone has a policy that no hotel room can have smaller than a 40-inch TV. Some high-end hotels go as big as 55 inches.
  • High-definition programming. Hotels once shied away from it because it was so expensive and logistically too complex. No longer. Almost all full-service Hilton-brand hotels have multiple HD channels that vary by hotel and brand, says Josh Weiss, vice president of guest technology.
  • Hotel menus. You don't have to click from channel to channel anymore. Samsung TVs have an interactive channel guide, just as you might have at home via your cable or dish provider, so you can easily find HBO and ESPN.
  • Transfers to iPad. Both Samsung and LG have TVs that let guests transfer TV content to their Apple iPads, which makes watching a favorite TV show by the pool possible.
  • Interaction. Samsung is incorporating apps into its TVs so that it's easy for guests to log onto Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.
  • Hotel services. Guests can order room service and access other hotel services through their TVs.
  • Customization. Richard Lewis, with LG Electronics USA, says hotels can track which channels that return guests watch the most and customize channel lists to have their favorites appear first.
  • Fewer remote controls. LodgeNet has created a mobile app that turns your Android, iPhone or iPad into a TV remote control.

"The content is really rising to a new level," Lewis says. "It's not just this dumb TV that sits there and gives you access to 20 channels.