Dish Network aims to be a whole new animal, starting with Hopper and Joey DVR system

12 Jan

Companies change little bits of themselves all the time, but it’s rare to see a company completely re-imagine itself from the ground up. At CES this year, Dish Network sought to show the world that they were doing exactly that. Their press conference was geared towards proving that they had refreshed every outward facing part of their company for the better. In fact, they even went so far as to call themselves “a whole new animal”.

An impressive new hardware platform

Dish Network has been trying for a couple of years now to make their set top boxes a selling point, much in the way that an iPhone or a Galaxy Nexus is for a mobile carrier. Last year they even tried partnering with Logitech to release the Revue to their customers. Now, as Dish, the company has decided to release a unique hardware platform that is exclusive to them.

In a Dish-powered home, you would have a primary device called the Hopper in your main viewing room. The Hopper is a 750MHz set top box with 2TB of internal storage and expansion slots for more. The Hopper can record up to six HD shows at once. At the moment, Dish representatives wouldn’t allow us to navigate the whole device, but what UI parts we did have access to were very quick.

For every other room in a Dish-powered home, you would have the companion box to the Hopper setup, the Joey. This device is about a third of the the size of the Hopper, and designed to be hidden from view. The box even has mounting holes so you can stick it to the back of your television, allowing it to occupy as little space as possible. The Joey works in union with the Hopper, being able to both request that the Hopper record shows and pull already recorded shows from the Hopper to watch. If you are watching a show on any of the Joey or Hopper devices and move to another device, the show will pick up where it left off. The Joey is sporting the same 750MHz chip as the Hopper, and is just as fast in navigating your home content.

dish network - hopper dvr

Dish also plans to offer a Sling adapter accessory for the Hopper, allowing your access to your recorded content from anywhere. Offing an impressive hardware platform like this is a significant push for Dish. It creates a unified hardware platform, and bragging rights for any users who have these boxes. The big push on this platform will be how quickly Dish dissolves their existing conglomeration of set top boxes in exchange for the Hopper and Joey for their existing customers. As impressive as this new hardware platform is, the delivery of this platform will be critical.

Refreshed and very competitive services

The newfound power in their hardware platform allows Dish to offer some unique services in exchange for some of their existing offerings. With their partnership with XM Satellite radio, Dish is working very hard to make XM channels and XM music services a very centralized feature. Alongside the series of channels with genres of music, similar to how XM is setup now, Dish users will have the ability to listen to specific artists and albums. Every song that is played will display the album art and allow for deeper navigation.

Dish will also be unveiling Primetime Anytime, which allows a user to go back and watch any of the shows that were aired during the primetime slots on the four major networks for the last 8 days. Instead of needing to remember to program the DVR to record a specific show, PrimeTime Anytime just automatically records all of it in HD and allows you to browse and watch anything you might have missed. This is an interesting jab at services like Hulu, whose ability to offer a streaming version of a show you might have missed was a critical feature of the service when it started.
Dish is also expanding their library of streaming content with Blockbuster online, granting access to the full inventory of streaming content from the online service. Blockbuster’s partnership with Dish is also allowing them to add new content in the coming months which will further expand the offering.

Final Thoughts

I’m not sure that a set top box, even ones as impressive as the Hopper and Joey, would give me cause to switch my service provider. The strategy here to offer an impressive hardware platform to make people want to switch to Dish is a great idea, and has clearly worked in the mobile industry for years, so the potential for this to be a very successful campaign for Dish is there. Dish Network walked on stage with a new hardware platform, new services, a new mascot, and walked back off the stage as Dish. I’m not sure that this is a whole new animal, but it is an impressive approach to the market.


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