517 Channels And Nothing’s On: The World’s Most Bizarre Hotel TV Package

Have you ever found yourself in a hotel room, searching for a sporting event on TV only to find Arab phone sex line networks, Yemeni soap operas, Russian shopping channels and a host other unwatchable programming?

Two of my life’s passions are travel and sports. There are only a few places in the world I have no interest in visiting and I can watch just about any sporting event, save auto racing, and a few of the more obscure Olympic sports. My sports addiction is so intense that I actually try to avoid traveling during the four grand slam tennis tournaments each year, the World Series, the Stanley Cup and other major sporting events.

But when you plan a big trip, such as the three-month reporting trip I’m on now, you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to miss some of the matches and games you want to watch. You can find websites airing sporting events, but have you ever tried following a tennis ball on a computer screen with a slow Internet connection? Good luck.When I lived overseas, I had a Slingbox, which gave me remote access to a friend’s U.S. DVR, but even that is sketchy if your Internet connection is slow. I was OK with missing most of the first week of French Open tennis while in Greece, but as the matches became more important in the second week, I started hunting for a place to stay that might have a channel showing the event.

I found a beautiful, affordable two-bedroom apartment in Samos at a place called Sirena Village and when they told me they had a satellite TV subscription with more than 500 channels, I almost wept in joy. Surely of those 500 channels, one of them would be showing the French Open, and the Euro 2012 soccer tournament, right?

Shortly after checking in one day last week, I started methodically flipping through the channels in search of the Roger Federer-Juan Martin Del Potro match from Paris. The hotel management hadn’t lied – the room did indeed have more than 500 channels – 517 of them to be precise. But it took me a full 90 minutes to flip through all of them and the French Open was nowhere to be found.

What did I find? Dozens of home shopping channels in a variety of languages, scores of religious programming from the Middle East, an evangelical Korean channel, Persian music channels, more than a dozen networks offering phone sex with “Arab women,” an Italian poker channel and a host of unwatchable programs from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Poland, Romania, Syria, Yemen and a host of other countries. Oddly enough, there were almost no Greek channels.

At first, I was just angry. There were 517 channels, but only four I’d actually consider watching: BBC World, France 24 in English, CCTV and Al Jazeera International. But later, when I decided to indulge my curiosity in this truly bizarre satellite TV package, I was able to laugh at the absurdity of it all. I had more channels from Kurdistan than from the U.S. I had the Somali Network, but not CNN. I had Dubai Sports 3, which seems to show no actual sporting events, rather than ESPN or Eurosport.

One of the only American channels listed in my guide was The Pentagon Channel, of all things, but thankfully it didn’t come in. I had a Persian language-shopping network called MI-TV, based in Dubai, that was peddling what looked like a blatant rip-off of the Ab Lounge. I had a channel called Iran Beauty that featured a woman in a chador making what looked like wedding favors, and I had not one but two Afghan channels, both advertising PO boxes in Fremont, California.

I spent a few minutes watching what looked like the Sudanese version of “Meet the Press,” trying in vain to divine what was going on. I had no clue, but I was fascinated by the moderator, who wore what looked like a small Christmas wreath, rakishly on the side of his turban, like a rapper with a Yankees hat worn terribly askew. In fact, there were dozens of channels broadcasting in Arabic and all of them seemed to be airing talk shows or prayer shows.

Oman TV featured a rotating slideshow; an Iraqi channel called Al-Iraqia featured a cooking program with an obese chef who made omelets but mostly just pontificated; a channel called Al-Mustakillah featured a blurry image of a wailing cleric with the URL for the channel’s Facebook page; Deejay TV showed grainy footage of the Eagles playing “Hotel California”; TV Quran showed pages from the Quran with a narrator reading them; a Persian channel featured an obnoxious puppet show; a channel called Al Fayhaa featured a folk band that reminded me of an Arab version of the Village People; and Yemen TV showed what appeared to be a children’s talent show, where all the little boys wore traditional costumes with big daggers tucked into their belts.

Oh, and there were all kinds of sex channels, but none showed actual nudity or sex, just vaguely Middle Eastern looking women advertising phone sex lines. There was Arab Girls TV, Arab-69 TV, Hot Arab Sex, Arab Jins, Arab XXX, Arab Sex Club, and the Arab Babes channel, to name just a few.

The Italian networks were winners too. One advertised a phone sex line by featuring a young lady in shorts and halter top, dancing, with her backside facing the camera, mostly bent over a hand shaped chair and an Italian shopping network featured a montage of Italian housewives recoiling in horror at the site of rats and other bugs and rodents to sell some sort of pest control product. I had 517 channels and was determined to watch all of them.

Friday brought the start of Euro 2012, but alas, none of my channels were showing the matches. Luckily, soccer is significantly more popular than tennis here, so there was no trouble finding the match at a bar. I know that I shouldn’t be trying to watch sporting events while traveling, so I’m ready to be roundly condemned in the comments section. But it’s easy to cut yourself off from the world of sports for a week or two, but three months is another story. My name is Dave and I’m an addict.

Luckily, I found a wonderful Brit named Wendy, who runs the Rendezvous Café in Kampos, Samos, and has been allowing me to watch the French Open on Eurosport. God bless Wendy and my 517 obscure channels from around the world. Thankfully, I have both the God Network and Church TV to help me give praise.

I hate you, hotel advertising TV channel

I hate you, hotel advertising television channel. I hate that you’re the default channel every time I turn on the TV in my room. I hate it even more when you’re already on when I enter my room. Don’t you understand that if I hear noises in my hotel room when I enter, I’m going to think that there’s someone inside waiting to murder me and do odd things to my body? I hate that you advertise movies that I can purchase but that I wouldn’t watch if the hotel manager offered to pay me (I’m looking at you, 17 Again). I hate you for making it so difficult to navigate away from you and to other channels that may actually entertain me. I hate you so much.I hate that you default to a volume that drowns out jet engines. I hate that you make me find the strange menu buttons on the remote to navigate away from you. Don’t make me handle the remote anymore than I need to. It’s covered in bodily fluids!

I hate that you have spawned other in-house hotel television channels. Now there are hotel movie channels, hotel amenities channels (I do not want to see people with dead-behind-the-eyes expressions enjoying your spa), hotel restaurant channels (fact: bulk shrimp do not look appetizing on hotel televisions) and local attraction channels. Why are you pressuring me to do so many things? This is my vacation! This is my business trip! I don’t want to be bombarded by your nonsense when I’m in my room. I’m here to relax.

You know what I do want to watch in my room? The same garbage that I watch at home. Give me my basic cable channels. Give me a TV that works and displays high definition programming so that I can see rednecks running pawn shops and dudes mining for gold in Alaska in all their glory. I’m away from my DVR and need to stay caught up on my stories.

I don’t want to buy a movie. I don’t want to watch Carrot Top give me a tour of the Luxor (seriously, he haunted my dreams more than that asinine slanted ceiling did). I just want to see some sports highlights and Ron Swanson make dry-witted jokes about meat.

I hate you, hotel advertising channel. I hate you so much.

Hotel Madness: No free Wi-Fi vs. Annoying hotel TV channel

Hotel Madness debuts with an intriguing first round match-up. Dominant #1 seed No free Wi-Fi takes on scrappy underdog Annoying hotel TV channel. The lack of free Wi-Fi is a newer peeve but it has quickly risen to prominence as it perturbs travelers around the world. Meanwhile, the annoying TV channel has been around for years and, while it doesn’t take any cash out of your wallet, it makes your leisure time in the room downright irritating.

Read the bios of both of these Hotel Madness competitors below and then vote for one to continue on to the next round as we seek to crown a champion.

(1) No Free WiFi
Whether you’re on the road for work or pleasure, odds are you’ve brought some kind of internet machine with you. From laptops to iPads to Android phones, the number of devices that join us on trips is increasing and they all benefit from internet connectivity. Hotels know this and, rather than build up some good will with guests, they exploit it. Need to send that updated report to your boss, upload pictures to your blog or watch some streaming movies to avoid touching your TV remote? Well, you’re going to have to pay $14.95 a day for WiFi and it’s going to be a crappy connection.

(16) Annoying Hotel TV Channel
If you can figure out out how to turn on the television, odds are it will default to a channel telling you fun facts about your hotel and the local area. The volume will be louder than a jet engine and you’ll be asked to navigate a series of menus before you can actually browse through the real stations. Thankfully, you’ll see plenty of photographs of people eating at the breakfast buffet while a voice actor tells you about the hotel’s “world-class cuisine.”

So, what annoys you more: paying for internet access or navigating your television away from the obnoxious hotel channel? Vote now!


First round voting ends at 11:59EDT on Sunday, March 20.

More Hotel Madness action:
#2 Bad front desk service vs. #15 Everything about TV remotes
#3 Expensive parking vs. #14 Tightly tucked-in sheets
#4 Resort fees vs. #13 Early housekeeping visits
#5 No airport shuttle vs. #12 One-ply toilet paper
#6 No free breakfast vs. #11 Expensive minibars
#7 Bad water pressure vs. #10 Small towels
#8 Room not ready on time vs. #9 Early checkout times

Follow along with the Hotel Madness tournament here.

Review: Sewell PC to TV converter – your own movies on the hotel TV!

If you travel with your laptop, chances are you’ve come across problems hooking up your laptop to a hotel TV. Even though a lot of hotels have started upgrading to more modern flat panel TV’s, plenty of hotels still think you are happy using a 15 year old tube TV with a single non HD input.

The main advantage of connecting your laptop to the hotel TV is that you can watch movies or other stuff on a larger screen – sadly, almost every laptop lacks the connector required to plug into a normal video input, found on many of these older TV’s.

This is where the Sewell PC to TV converter can help. This $34.99 box plugs into your computer using three cables – one for VGA video, one for USB (to power it) and one for audio. On the other side of the box, it outputs a composite video signal suitable for almost every TV. The three cables merge into a single cable heading into the unit, making things very neat and tidy.

Of course, the video quality does drop a little when you go from VGA to composite, but it is still decent enough for a Powerpoint presentation or a movie.

Installation takes just 20 seconds, and once everything is hooked up, the only thing remaining is to press the button combination on your laptop to enable video output.

Sewell made a video showing all the features, and how easy it is to use their PC to TV converter. Best of all, since it powers off USB, you do not need to bring a power supply, and the total weight of the unit and its video cable is under ten ounces.

The Sewell PC to TV converter may be a high on the geek factor, but anyone that has suffered through 5 channels of mediocre hotel TV knows how handy it can be to watch your own content.

The PC to TV converter is available from Sewell Direct, and retails for just $34.95. Click here for the product information and ordering page.

When hotel high-tech goes bad

Hotels are slowly entering the new millennium, and are investing in new amenities. In addition to better toiletries, most new and renovated hotels are adding (HD) flat panel TV’s, smart thermostats and better water management.

There is however one major flaw with some of these technologies – hotels are installing technology they don’t have any experience with, and some of the technology appearing in the room becomes more of a burden than a blessing. Here are three examples of technology being added to hotel rooms, that simply does not work.
The double flat panel TV curse
Lets assume you find yourself checking into a decent hotel – one that recently replaced all their old CRT TV’s with some nice flat panel models. The hotel even went so far as to install not one, but two TV’s in the suite – which is perfect if you are planning to let someone sleep in the sofa bed, or if you want some TV when you are working at the desk.

There is however one major flaw with this – in 4 different hotels I recently spent the night, each flat panel TV used the same remote control code. The result of this is that anything you do on one TV, also happens on the other.

Ready to go to bed at night? You’ll turn off the TV in one room, and the TV in the other room will turn on. Change the channel on one TV? It’ll change on the other TV as well. Some hotels make this curse even worse by installing a mirror next to the TV’s, making it much easier for the remote control to reach the other TV.

Of course, this does not happen when you have completely separated rooms, but since most suites are only divided by a small wall, you’ll understand how annoying this can be.

The solution for hotels is to find a way to set different codes on each TV, but you’d expect them to have figured this out before they invested in all these nice new TV’s.

Going green means getting warm

I’m not the most “green” person in the world – and one of the first things I’ll do when I enter my hotel room is dial the thermostat down to a comfortable 70 degrees.

In more and more hotels, I’m being forced to become green thanks to motion detection thermostats. These “smart” devices think they know when a guest is no longer in the room, and will disable the AC when it decides the room is empty.

Of course, this also means these stupid boxes think I am gone, when I am fast asleep.

I’ve regularly woken up in the middle of the night several times finding the room at an uncomfortable 78 degrees, all because a piece of equipment thought I was gone.

Thankfully a quick wave in front of the sensor reminds it that I’m still there, and that I’d like a bit of cool air.

The scrubbing shower jet

Thermostatic shower controls are great. These controls keep your shower water at a constant temperature, which prevents being showered with freezing cold water when your hotel room neighbor takes a shower at the same time.

They also have the unfortunate side effect of not controlling the water pressure.

On old double tap controls, you could dial the pressure up or down a little, but had little control over the final temperature.

With these new controls, you run the risk of getting the perfect temperature, but having so much water pressure, that you could use the jet to pressure wash your car.

Things are not too bad in the morning, when everyone else in the hotel is taking a shower, but if you arrive in the afternoon in need of a shower, then you could be the only one using all that water. It’s time like that when a bath is the best option.