How to get free TV in any hotel

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Hook that giant hotel TV up to your iPad
Hook that giant hotel TV up to your iPad.
Photo: Paul Postema/Unsplash

Switch on a hotel TV, and you’ll likely run into its paywall very quickly. You probably don’t want to view any of the hotel’s stupid pay channels, but maybe you do want to hook up your iPad and watch some of the shows you brought along with you.

You’re typically still out of luck, though. These locked-up TVs won’t let you access their HDMI ports. Nor will they let you connect via AirPlay, if they even support Apple’s streaming protocol. However, there’s an absurdly easy way to disable all this dumb “security” and watch video from your iPad or iPhone to a hotel TV.

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Unlock hotels TVs to connect your iPad

Writing on Twitter, Deviant Ollam shows us how to unlock restricted hotel TVs:

look on the back for a “data” port, likely occupied by a network or phone-like cable. i’ve seen RJ45 and RJ11.

this wire probably leads to a secondary box, often down on the floor. this gives the TV it’s initial start-up configuration. (and is used for billing, etc)

…pull that shit the hell out. then hard-power-cycle the TV.

it should fire up, look for configuration push, not find anything, and then just be a normal TV again. all channels and inputs are likely to work…

Easy, huh? Just disconnect any boxes that the hotel has connected to the back of the TV, reboot the television, and you have … a television!

Don’t forget your dongle and HDMI cable

If the hotel TV shows and movies also come in through the cable you disconnected, then you may not be able to watch much. But you don’t care about that. All you need is a dumb screen to connect to your iPad or iPhone. For that, you’ll need the appropriate dongle. If you’re using an iPhone, or a non-pro iPad, you’ll need Apple’s Lightning-HDMI adapter. For the USB-C iPad Pro, you can use any USB-C hub that has an HDMI output on it. And in both cases, you’ll need to make sure you packed an HDMI cable.

The good news is, none of those items take up much space in your luggage. And if you already own the accessories, it costs nothing to experiment. Unless the hotel cops bust you, in which case you’ll be in big trouble, and slammed into hotel jail. So just make sure you plug the stupid box back in when you leave your room.