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CES 2014: Dish Offers More Tuners, Easier Connectivity

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Satellite TV company Dish’s CES press conferences are must-sees for two reasons: One, they’re consistently fun, full of music and kangaroo costumes; and two, Dish is one of the most innovative names in home entertainment, one that pays attention to what home viewers want.

It can’t be easy to keep innovating in a field where the others aren’t trying. DirecTV seems allergic to new ideas, while the cable companies are still hoping to convince subscribers that TV Everywhere is a pretty neat idea. That moribund field has allowed innovators like Netflix to flourish.

At previous CES shows, Dish unveiled the Hopper and Joey (a central DVR and a smaller auxiliary DVR that works with in), and added Sling integration for remote viewing of live and on-demand content. This year, the Joey got all the attention, with multiple new models delivering worthwhile new features.

The SuperJoey, for example, adds two TV tuners, so Hopper/Joey households can record eight programs at once. That includes four network channels using Dish’s Primetime Anytime feature and four of the subscriber’s choosing. The SuperJoey works with any version of the Hopper.

There’s also the Wireless Joey, for rooms that don’t have a coaxial connection. The Wireless Joey is paired with a Dish access point, which uses 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Each access point can stream to two Wireless Joeys. SuperJoey and Wireless Joey shown at left.

The Joey has even gone virtual, as subscribers will be able to access Dish apps on PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles and Joey clients on LG connected TVs, giving them an experience similar to that on a wired Joey. All the devices need to be on the same home network.

Dish also works on more mobile devices. Subscribers can already use iOS an Android smartphone and tablet apps, and now Dish is introducing a Kindle Fire app. The apps let subscribers transfer recorded content and view it out of the home. New Hoppers can transfer video twice as fast as before, thanks to chip improvements. Third-party apps by Thuuz, Control4, and BuddyTV now offer Dish integration.

Dish is improving its interface, adding natural language voice search to its iPad app, and voice control and recommendations to the Hopper. Dish pointed out that the voice command system understands accents, an essential for its Boston guy spokespeople.

A Dish marketing exec pointed out that the company’s innovation and PR efforts aren’t just attracting more customers, but are attracting higher-income, plugged-in customers. Dish brand awareness is now at 69 percent, the rep said, compared to DirecTV’s 65 percent. Moreover, Hopper awareness is at 61 percent, versus the DirecTV Genie’s 27 percent.

“There’s no question: we are disrupters, we are innovators,” boomed Joe Clayton, Dish’s CEO and president. “We challenge the status quo, that’s who we are.”

Surrounded by a troop of costumed marsupials, Clayton concluded: “At Dish, it is always the year of the kangaroo.”

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