Welcome to the broadband and cable news roundup, Hump Day edition.
Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) is close to releasing an over-the-air (OTA) TV module that's compatible with its new Hopper HD-DVR. The move would give Dish a tactical weapon it can wield against broadcasters as the sides fight in court about AutoHop, a Hopper feature that lets users skip commercials in recorded TV shows. Among the broadcasters, CBS has threatened to pull its signal if Dish continues to support the ad-zapping feature, so an OTA module would appear at least to give Dish some negotiation leverage. SatelliteGuys got an early look at the module, noting that they were able to pick up about 30 digital TV stations with it, but that some of the guide data for OTA channels were "spotty at best." SatelliteGuys adds that the module is set to sell for $30. Dish has some basic info posted about the product here. We've asked Dish to confirm pricing and when it expects to start selling the OTA module to Hopper customers. (See Dish, Broadcasters Go to War Over Ad-Zapper and Dish Sticks It to the Broadcasters .)
Update: A Dish spokesman confirmed that the OTA tuner does sell for $30 and can be purchased at MyDish.com. He added that the necessary software to operate the module should have already been pushed to Hopper receivers. Customers will still have to purchase exterior or interior digital OTA antennas on their own to complete the set-up.
Here's an illustration of how the module connects with the Hopper via a USB interface:
Sky Angel has hit C-SPAN with an antitrust suit, claiming that the MSO-backed programmer withdrew programming in 2009 after the Naples, Fla.-based company began to deliver subscription TV services over broadband. Sky Angel, which runs an over-the-top service called FAVE-TV, has already filed a program-access complaint against Discovery Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) Sky Angel is asking for an injunction that would give it access to C-SPAN for ten years.
Yep, rabbit ears for Dish's Kangaroo box... funny thing is that the cable guys did look into adding OTA tuners on set-top boxes, or at least demonstrated it ( i don't recall that ever getting built into a leased-out digital cable box...yet). T/he cable guys never said as much, but it was obviously there to provide some leverage in the retrans negotiations. Now some of those guys are keeping an eye on how the Aereo lawsuits shake out. JB
A spokesman says the module is being sold at www.mydish.com for $30... but i'm still trying to clear up if the box needs some sort of software update to support it. Dish has already extended support for the module to some other receiver models, but having it come to the Hopper offers some different implications because of the ad-zapping piece. JB
shygye75, User Rank: Light Sabre 12/5/2012 | 5:17:42 PM
re: Dish Ups the Ante Against Broadcasters
It may happen sooner than you think. At this point, what percentage of the U.S. population still uses OTA? All those local transmitters cost money to operate. At least as far as the major networks are concerned, at this point they probably come out ahead if they abandon broadcast, sell the spectrum at a nice price, and use walled-garden transmission (cable, satellite). And now that Comcast owns one of the majors, the transition is likely to accelerate.
Yeah, it would go away, but I'll be surprised if free OTA ends in my lifetime depite that the government is trying to incent bcasters to sell back some of their spectrum for use in wireless. JB
AESerm, User Rank: Light Beer 12/5/2012 | 5:17:40 PM
re: Dish Ups the Ante Against Broadcasters
Believe it or not, OTA viewing is up in U.S., or so says NAB. Yes, you'd expect that from them, but they said in June that it's up to 54m from 46m a year ago. Usage skewed toward minorities and younger consumers. Sales of smart, flat panel "HD" antennas seem to be doing OK, too.
shygye75, User Rank: Light Sabre 12/5/2012 | 5:17:40 PM
re: Dish Ups the Ante Against Broadcasters
There are about 115 million households in the U.S. right now. NAB's numbers would suggest a pay TV penetration of less than 55%, which simply doesn't match reality. Maybe the NAB is counting satellite subscribers who use OTA for local channels. At this point, though, I'd guess that most consumers have access to a pay service that delivers local OTA channels.
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