DISH serves up 'VOD,' video-to-go

Thu, 01/06/2005 - 7:00pm
Jeff Baumgartner

Las Vegas — EchoStar Communications took the wraps off a range of new initiatives, including a slick line of portable digital video recorders and its own spin on video-on-demand.

Playing up portable video and digital video recording, a huge trend emerging here at the Consumer Electronics Show, EchoStar will soon rollout handheld models that sport three different screen sizes (7 inches, 4 inches and 2.2 inches) and hard drives capable of storing between 20 gigabytes to 40 gigabytes. Support for USB 2.0 will enable the transfer of an entire movie from an EchoStar DVR to the portable device in about five minutes, said EchoStar President Mark Jackson.

He declined to say how much the devices will cost consumers or whether customers will be charged a separate, recurring monthly fee.

EchoStar also put the pressure on cable when it came to video-on-demand and how it should be defined to consumers.

From cable's perspective, true video-on-demand requires a two-way network that streams movies and other titles to the set-top. In EchoStar's view, downloading content to a hard drive for playback is good enough to call VOD.

EchoStar's notion of VOD will be delivered this March via the company's new DISH Player-DVR 625 receiver. EchoStar will reserve about 100 hours of storage on the receiver's hard drive to receive VOD movies and other titles. The customer can use the drive's remaining 100 hours of space to record programs on their own as they would with any traditional digital video recorder.

EchoStar chief Charlie Ergen, speaking at a press conference Thursday, said the box supplies "the best of what's on satellite and what [customers] want." He expects future versions of EchoStar DVRs to store "hundreds" of hours of programming.

The company hopes to hit those numbers as it gains storage efficiencies offered by MPEG-4. Ergen said EchoStar's migration to MPEG-4 could take five years, but expects to transition high-definition subscribers even sooner. He added that HD subs will probably get the MPEG-4 upgraded boxes for free.

EchoStar also touted the DISH Player-DVR 942, a box with multi-room HD-DVR capabilities. The model features dual tuners and a 250-gigabyte hard drive. It carries an MSRP of $749.


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