Video services

Dish Relaunches Itself With Hopper

LAS VEGAS -- 2012 International CES -- Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) trotted out an array of video products and a new broadband service bundle Monday, aiming to fix flagging subscriber growth, stave off over-the-top competition and restore its aging brand.

"Yes, the Dish brand will get back to growing in 2012," Dish President and CEO Joe Clayton stressed at this afternoon's press conference. "We are basically relaunching our company and re-energizing our brand."

Dish's CES centerpiece is the Hopper, a whole-home HD-DVR that sports a 2-Tbyte hard drive -- enough, the company claims, to store 2,000 hours of content that can be shared with smaller boxes, called Joeys, that are connected via a Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) -based home network. The Hopper is capable of recording six hi-def shows simultaneously.

But the most interesting and possibly disruptive feature is PrimeTime Anytime, which takes advantage of the Hopper's massive hard drive to let users automatically record every prime-time show (from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET) on ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS in HD for eight consecutive days. The most obvious competitive target for this is the $7.99 per month Hulu Plus service. (Dish, by the way, was in the running to buy Hulu LLC before its owners opted not to sell the Web TV hub: See Hulu: No Sale .)

The IP-connected Hopper will also have access to HBO GO, the premium programmer's popular authenticated TV Everywhere service, and streaming video from Dish's Blockbuster streaming video vaults. Another feature, called Dish Unplugged, will record several new-release VoD movies directly to the Hopper's hard drive via Dish's satellite distribution system (no broadband connection needed).

On the data side, Dish also announced it would bundle satellite broadband services from corporate cousin ViaSat Inc. (Nasdaq: VSAT). Beginning next month, Dish will sell high-speed Internet packages starting at $79.98 per month (and a $99 install fee) that, on the high end, will offer up to 12Mbit/s downstream and 3Mbit/s upstream. That's nowhere near the capabilities of cable's Docsis 3.0 platform, but it gives Dish a viable broadband alternative it hasn't had.

Why this matters
Dish, like cable MSOs, is hoping advanced video products can reverse a trend of subscriber losses. (Dish lost a more-than-expected 111,000 of them in the third quarter of 2011). Increasingly, that trend has included customers who have been tightening their belts amid the tough economy.

What really matters, of course, is that Clayton brought a real live joey -- a baby kangaroo -- on stage with him. Here's a photo over at ZDNet. Awwww.

For more
Catch up on Dish's latest doings.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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