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@ CES: Dish gets a makeover, new kangaroo mascot

Tue, 01/10/2012 - 2:57pm
Mike Robuck

Dish Network's JoeyIn a variation on the dog and pony show, Dish Network re-launched itself at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with the help of a kangaroo.

Dish CEO and President Joe Clayton took to the stage at The Venetian with a baby kangaroo, or "Joey," to announce sweeping changes for the satellite video provider.

Front and center with Clayton and the kangaroo was Dish's new whole-home DVR "Hopper" platform. Hopper is the master HD DVR that has 2 terabytes of hard drive memory, while the "Joey" thin-client boxes are located around a home and connect to the Hopper drive via MoCA.

The Joey devices, which are about the length of a dollar bill, are small enough to fit behind TVs, and combined with Hopper, they allow viewers to pick up viewing from one room to another on the fly.

Hopper can store up to 2,000 hours of HD content and record up to six HD shows simultaneously. The latter is important because it allows Dish subscribers to record the entire primetime menu – under the Dish moniker of "PrimeTimeAnytime" – of shows from Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC for up to eight days. The end result is "the industry's biggest video library, hands down," according to Clayton.

"This is the industry's smallest, most energy-efficient feature-laden and HD whole-home DVR," Clayton said.

The three-tuner Hopper whole-home DVR can access both IP and satellite video, including HBO Go and video from Dish's Blockbuster @Home content. The end result is a one-two punch that challenges Comcast's Xfinity library and over-the-top threats such as Netflix.

Hopper and Joey also feature a 750 MHz Broadcom processer that makes the new user interface lightning fast, according to Clayton. Hopper and sidekick Joey will start shipping later this month and are included for free as part of a two-year subscription, according to Vivek Khemka, Dish's vice president of product management.

There's also Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity and a ZigBee RF4CE to help customers find those lost remote controls.

Clayton said that while the Blockbuster name may be undervalued by Wall Street, it resonates with consumers. Dish subscribers can access the Blockbuster @Home content via Internet streaming or by cached content in Hopper that downloads the top 10 most popular video shows or movies each day.

New subscribers to Dish get Blockbuster @Home for free for the first two months, and Dish has also added 6,000 family and kids titles to the service. Clayton said music was also undervalued, and on that note, Dish will offer 73 commercial-free music channels from Sirius XM.

Clayton said Dish has also bundled a data service, which is provisioned by ViaSat, in with its video service for $79.98 a month in order to reach the 8 million to 10 million rural customers who are currently underserved on the data side. ViaSat will handle the data plans, which feature up to 12 Mbps on the downstream, while Dish will provide the customer with the unified billing.

And just to make sure it hit all of the bases, Dish also re-launched its Web portal, redesigned its "Dish" logo, added new personnel to its executive team and announced a content deal with Univision. The Hopper and Joey names and logos are also part of an overall branding effort by Dish to be more consumer-friendly.

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