After DISH Network’s exciting debut of the Hopper whole-home DVR at last year’s CES, we were eager to see how they expected to top that. Hopper introduced multi-room viewing and control, PrimeTime Anytime, and the consumer-loved but industry-reviled AutoHop commercial skipping.
At Monday’s CES press conference, DISH’s President and CEO Joseph P. Clayton had no qualms about mocking the broadcasters’ efforts to block DISH customers from using Hopper’s popular features. He called attention to AutoHop’s Innovations award from the CEA and went so far as to show off photographs of him posing with their mascot in front of ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX broadcasting buildings.
Legal issues and awards aside, customers seem to love Hopper. In little more than nine months, DISH has placed two million Hopper and Joey extenders in consumers’ homes. This year is about making Hopper even better.
Sling. The big news from DISH is that the next generation Hopper, due out later this month, will have Sling baked in. As with other Sling-enabled devices, Hopper with Sling will allow DISH customers to watch live and recorded content from their Hopper DVRs remotely but with the added benefit of PrimeTime Anytime content and AutoHop features.
The new Hopper also has a faster processor, more memory, and new services—including Pandora and SiriusXM radio and several multi-screen games.
Offline. The second big announcement from DISH is the addition of offline viewing capabilities for Hopper through a new feature and app called Hopper Transfers. Like TiVo Stream, Hopper Transfers will download individual shows or series to an iPad. Unlike TiVo Stream, it doesn’t require extra hardware at an extra cost. It’s built in, and it’s free. Customers are limited to one download per recording, though. For some reason they didn’t just incorporate offline video into the existing DISH Remote Access app—customers will have to download and view offline video from a separate app.
Social, et al. DISH’s least interesting/most disappointing announcement for Hopper is the immediate availability of DISH Explorer, a free iPad app that integrates social features, content and sports discovery, and remote control capabilities into a second screen experience. Shows being watched are automatically identified and appear aside related tweets and Facebook posts, allowing you to interact with others about what you’re watching. Curiously GetGlue—the social network that’s specifically designed around content consumptions—isn’t integrated.
Vivek Khemka, vice president of Product Management says of DISH Explorer, “what we’ve done is develop an integrated, seamless experience between the tablet and the television.” Ironically, this seamless experience is delivered through yet another app— separate from DISH Remote Access and from the newly-announced Hopper Transfers app.
DISH Explorer is available now in the iTunes App Store. Hopper Transfers is expected with the release of the new Hopper later this month. Pricing is not yet announced for the new Hopper, nor do we yet know what upgrade opportunities might be available to existing Hopper customers.
We’re happy to see new features added to the Hopper DVR, particularly the ability to sling live and recorded content and download content for offline viewing at no additional cost. But these features and the addition of yet another app for second screen experiences creates an unnecessarily splintered app ecosystem for DISH that we hope they soon remedy. DISH could take a lesson from TiVo here, which still has the best, integrated app experience for discovery, control, management, and viewing.