Dish Makes Its Adaptive Streaming Move

DENVER -- Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) will put its acquisition of Move Networks Inc. into action later this year when it introduces adaptive video streaming in IP-connected set-top boxes and on its PC-based Dish Online service. (See Dish: TV Everywhere Site Is Portal to Growth .)

Speaking here at a press event linked to Dish's annual summit for its thousands of retail partners, company VP of Consumer Technology Vivek Khemka said the satellite-TV giant plans to launch Move-based adaptive streaming in set-tops in June, and introduce it in other products during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Dish acquired Move Networks, a struggling Internet video technology and adaptive streaming pioneer that once counted Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) among its investors and customers, in January. Dish is now starting to apply Move's technology in the hopes that it will provide customers with a consistent video-streaming experience as bit rates fluctuate. (See EchoStar Buys Move Networks, Why Didn't Cisco Buy Move Networks? and Cisco, Comcast Invest in Move Networks.)

Khemka said Move-encoded titles require a 1.5Mbit/s connection for standard-definition and 3 Mbit/s for hi-def for "almost instant" playback. A big benefit of adaptive streaming, he added, is that customers can still view streams in high quality and quick starts even with 2 percent to 3 percent packet loss.

Adaptive streaming techniques are able to do that because titles are encoded into chunks at different bit rates and resolutions. The player on the client, such as a set-top, detects the bandwidth levels and chooses the suitable bit rate profile. It's a technique that has also caught cable's eye. (See Cable Adapting to Video's Streaming Future.)

As for Dish, the thought is that customers who use DSL or live in rural areas without access to cable modems or fiber-based Internet services can still obtain smooth video streams when connections are faced with network congestion. Its IP-VoD library for set-tops provides access to about 6,000 movie titles.

Move's platform cuts movies and other titles into three-second chunks. To support Dish's IP-connected set-tops, Dish will generate 11 different encodes of each title, including five different encodes for HD alone.

In addition to set-tops and PCs, Dish is also working on adaptive streaming profiles for other broadband-connected displays such as tablets and smartphones.

More new products from Dish
Dish also used the event to introduce a new multi-room DVR system and a promotion that will pump up its TV place-shifting technology from corporate cousins Sling Media Inc. and EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS).

Its new "XIP" multi-room setup is Dish's first to use Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) chips (supplied by Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM)) to shuttle video over home networks. Its new XIP 110 boxes feed off the primary DVR, which features three tuners and one terabyte of internal storage. The new version supports HD in all rooms (its original multi-room DVR product only provided standard-def video in the secondary boxes). Dish hasn't announced pricing, but expects to launch the product later this year.

Dish will also try to boost adoption of its new $99 Sling Adapter, a thin Slingbox that connects to Dish receivers via USB, by offering one free to all new customers who, at a minimum, subscribe to the company's America's Top 200 package. The promo gets underway May 17. (See TelcoTV 2010: Dish Ready to Serve 'Sling Adapter' .)

Dish hasn't disclosed sales figures on the Sling Adapter, but "it's the best accessory we've ever sold," Khemka said, noting that the company's Dish Remote Access app for PCs, iPads and other platforms has been downloaded more than 1 million times.

Dish execs also revealed some near-term plans they have in store for its recent acquisition of Blockbuster Inc. Starting May 18, every new Dish customer will get a free three-month subscription to Blockbuster's by-mail DVD rental service. (See Dish's Baffling Blockbuster and Dish's Latest Buy Is a Blockbuster .)

But discussing other future plans involving Blockbuster would be premature, execs said.

Dish EVP of Sales, Marketing and Programming Thomas Cullen said the company still has a window to terminate leases associated with Blockbuster stores that aren't performing well, and that Dish expects to decide in the next 60 days how many of Blockbuster's 1,700 stores will be kept open.

"We're buying a [company] that's in need of resuscitation," he said, but acknowledged that Dish fully intends to continue using the Blockbuster brand.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Cooper10 12/5/2012 | 5:05:48 PM
re: Dish Makes Its Adaptive Streaming Move

Interesting announcement from DISH on giving a free Sling Adapter to any AT 200 or above customer - maybe now Sling will draw more interest from the programmers who wasted no time in protesting streaming video to tablets from Time Warner Cable and Cablevision? 

Cooper10 12/5/2012 | 5:05:46 PM
re: Dish Makes Its Adaptive Streaming Move

Did they address if they believe the same fair use provisions cover out-of-home viewing as well?  Seems like this type functionality could go the same route as the nDVR case - that is, if the activity is permitted if the end-user is in control, then it shouldn't be that difficult to pull the functionality into the network vs. using a piece of CPE (and potentially less expensive than paying incremental programming rights fees)

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:05:46 PM
re: Dish Makes Its Adaptive Streaming Move

Yes, to clarify that, they believe those provisions apply to any way the Slingbox is used -- to stream in or out of the house.  But you make an interesting observation with the nDVR.  In wonder if Cablevision's lawyers are chewing on that, too, wondering if access to the RS-DVR could be extended out of the home and complement a TV Everywhere strategy. But i figure they were pretty happy to get the courts to okay in-home use, and didn't want to press their luck-- yet. JB

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:05:46 PM
re: Dish Makes Its Adaptive Streaming Move

That came up in the Q&A session with Dish EVP of Sales, Marketing and Programming Thomas Cullen, and General Council Stanton Dodge.  They feel pretty comfortable that Sling's approach is protected by fair use of copyright law because it's using the signal coming into the box, the consumer is in control of how it's used, and access is limited to a one-to-one connection.  They don't feel that the rights issue Cablevision and TWC are facing with their respective iPad TV apps and what Sling does is an apples-to-apples comparison. JB


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