Marriott hotels will stop offering in-room adult movies

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Marriott International said it will phase out adult-content video services from its 600,000 hotel rooms worldwide, causing some to speculate that the Bethesda hospitality giant is responding to interest groups that promote family values.

"The Marriott family is known as being very conservative, partly from their Mormon background," said C. Patrick Scholes, a senior gaming and hotel analyst with FBR Capital Markets.

The moves comes two weeks after likely GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's resignation from Marriott's board. During the 2008 presidential campaigns, Romney was criticized by family-oriented interest groups for not pressing Marriott to drop the adult movies offered in its rooms.

A coalition of Christian organizations that includes Focus on the Family met with Marriott International officials in Washington in 2008 to press the hotel chain to stop offering pay-per-view adult movies.

Marriott did not take action following those meetings. On Monday, it said the recent decision was based on economics and technology. More guests can access adult content cheaply on their portable devices rather than pay for premium adult channels.

Romney resigned from the Marriott board of directors two weeks ago. He won a New Hampshire Republican presidential straw poll last week and is expected to announce later this year that he is running for president.

As for Marriott's decision, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said in an e-mail, "Mitt Romney did not participate in those discussions as he felt he should recuse himself from the matter."

Scholes and John Arabia, managing director of Green Street Advisors, said the loss of revenue to Marriott would be minimal.

"I wouldn't expect it to be a material hit to the profits of most hotels," Arabia said. "I don't have hard data, but I would speculate that the use of in-room adult video has declined with the proliferation of new technology."

Marriott said the company will not renew existing contracts with suppliers of in-room adult videos as the contracts expire and will not allow its new hotels to offer adult videos.

"We are working with in-room entertainment providers and technology vendors to transition to the next generation of in-room entertainment," Marriott said in a statement. "This new platform of Internet-based video-on-demand will facilitate our exit from the traditional hotel video systems that included adult content in the menu selection, and will also provide guests greater choice and control over what they watch.

"As we transition to this new platform, adult content will be off the menu for virtually all of our newly built hotels," the statement said. "Over the next few years, this will be the policy across our system."

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