DISH To Unveil “Hopper” Whole Home DVR

Dave Zatz —  January 5, 2012 — 50 Comments

dish-hopper

As anyone who follows the tech industry knows, the annual Consumer Electronics Show is nearly upon us. And, with it, bazillions of new product announcements. Some of which aren’t always revealed exactly as or when a vendor had intended… and such may be the case with DISH Network’s upcoming “Hopper” whole-home DVR solution that was supposedly covered by TWICE prematurely (and then yanked).

What I gather from the article and some Internet sleuthing is that EchoStar’s next generation XiP satellite whole home DVR hardware will be branded as the DISH Network “Hopper” (XiP 813) – along with the cute little kangaroo logos you see below. Further, the “extender” units will be Joeys (XiP 110). Given DISH’s inglorious historical product/box naming conventions, this is already a massive win as far as I’m concerned (and it beats TiVo’s Q and Preview, conceptually). The XiP, er Hopper, also features smaller, less angular set-top box hardware which had been my other major complaint with DISH units.

Of course, the goal of a whole-home DVR is to create a mostly centralized repository of recordings that can be streamed around the home… which the 2TB, 3 tuner Hopper and Joeys deliver. Along with live television. From the article, the system

can relay programs from the Hopper’s hard drive and tuners to up to three remote rooms in the house.Viewers, in effect, gain the ability to “hop from room to room” viewing the same program on different TVs. It’s smaller partner, the Joey (as in a baby kangaroo), is actually a thin−client box that is tethered via a MoCA coaxial cable system to the Hopper to share live and recorded TV programs in up to three additional rooms. The system will incorporate a new interactive program guide that features a more ergonomic look and feel

dish-network-xip

Beyond those compelling, albeit anticipated, whole-home functionality, the Hopper introduces a DVR “catch up” feature they’ve christened Primetime Anytime. Basically, one of the three tuners appears to be co-opted to record local affiliate programming (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) between 8PM – 11PM with programming retained for about a week. Clever! Seeya, Hulu Plus? But I wonder if this sort of automated solution will raise the ire of broadcasters – who’d rather license “catch up” services.

Lastly, the article indicates that the artist formerly known DISH Network will be dropping the “Network” and going solely by DISH (along with a new logo) in regards to marketing. Which, I suppose, isn’t entirely surprising given their (questionable) acquisition of Blockbuster along with other non-satellite TV irons in the fire.

TiVo is the only DVR that streams Netflix

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50 responses to DISH To Unveil “Hopper” Whole Home DVR

  1. “Who’s cuter, the TiVo guy or DISH’s new kangaroo Hopper?”

    You’ve got to be kidding. That’s like comparing LeBron James to Jarred Jeffries.

    The TiVo logo scores about 98 on the cuteness scale. The ZNF logo scores about 90. And the kangaroo scores about 50. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad logo. It’s just a bit lacking in the kawaii factor…

    (Now, Hopper and Joey certainly are cute names, but that’s a different category than logos.)

    “the Hopper introduces a DVR “catch up” feature they’ve christened Primetime Anytime … But I wonder if this sort of automated solution will raise the ire of broadcasters – who’d rather license “catch up” services.”

    If it’s not already licensed, it’ll never see the light of day, no? I thought that wasn’t kosher without the express written permission of major league baseball.

    —–

    Finally, a question. As an urban type, I have no experience with satellite TV. Who the hell are the customers? Is it only folks not properly served by wireline providers, or do they actually win some customers who have viable wireline options?

  2. “the goal of a whole-home DVR is to create a mostly centralized repository of recordings that can be streamed around the home”

    I disagree, the goal of a “Whole-home DVR” is to provide a DVR for the entire house. Simply streaming content from room to room isn’t enough. It isn’t a whole-home DVR unless it provides the exact same DVR experience on every TV in the house. So one now playing list, one to do list, and the ability to playback, record etc no matter where you are.

    What’s surprises me is how many people miss the importance of a consistent experience. People just want to watch TV, they don’t want to think about where something is recorded etc.

  3. I figured it went without saying with just one hard drive in the mix suggests you’d end up with a unified playlist and experience. Then again, both Moxi and TiVo extenders shipped without full functionality.

  4. I like the idea, but it only has 3 tuners? That sucks. Directv has a DVR that has 5 tuners. This will better serve my home with 2 kids. I watch a lot of TV and record even more. Dish should have tried to at least compete with Directv.

  5. 3 tuners might be enough if the clients have tuners. The DirecTV 5 tuner works with RVU, which means those clients are depending on the server’s tuners. So with 3 TVs, even 5 tuners could be tight if people like to watch live TV while recording something else.

  6. Rick, but do you like the pink kangaroo? Chucky, I’m no artist. Did you check out our Facebook page with updated logo – how does that rate? And feel free to locate me something better on http://istockphoto.com.

    Ben, it’s not clear to me that the Joeys have tuners. I don’t think they do, but the wiring diagram from the materials released last spring sort of suggests it could, since they run from the splitter and not from the MoCA bridge. Hm. TiVo’s Preview solution does contain tuners, whereas Moxi presumably EOL-ed extenders do not.

  7. Ben,
    On the money comment. My girlfriend complains like crazy about the FiOS whole home experience. She just wants to pause the live TV on the remote box and doesn’t understand that the main DVR is in the other room! We know from RCN comments that TiVo is working on a consistent whole-home experience that will be released this summer. At that point we will probably see the Preview released to retail.
    ~Sam

  8. “Did you check out our Facebook page with updated logo – how does that rate?”

    It’s not a bad logo by any means, but it definitely rates lower on the kawaii quotient than the blog logo. That dude is just so happy to see you. As always, it’s the TiVo logo on ecstasy + Mickey gloves…

    FWIW, the kangaroo logo is interesting. The negative space forms some kind of antlered animal. It just ain’t particularly cute.

  9. Regarding the negative space… does he have a DVR in his pouch or is he just happy to see us? And did you find ZNF a better mascot yet?

  10. “It isn’t a whole-home DVR unless it provides the exact same DVR experience on every TV in the house … What’s surprises me is how many people miss the importance of a consistent experience.”

    I think folks do understand. TiVo seems to be trying to slowly get there at their glacial development pace.

    But direction of resources to the DVR space has been badly under-allocated for years for a variety of reasons, including that everyone keeps pouring resources into chasing the Brave New OTT World that won’t get here for a loooooong time instead. Plus, building platforms is hard.

  11. “And did you find ZNF a better mascot yet?”

    I keep telling you, your classic logo at the top of this very page is actually quite compelling and good.

    The primitiveness I suspect you want to eliminate actually is part of the charm. Plus, it’s got a bit of Animaniacs vibe thrown in for extra goodness.

  12. The Hopper has 3 Satellite Tuners in in, the Joey boxes have no tuners built in.

    The way it is designed you should be able to add an additional hopper box for additional tuners and it will automatically adapt to your network. :)

    Their research shows that over 90% of the primetime recording is via one of the big 4 networks. so now instead of using one turn to record just one station they can record all 4 of the big 4 networks. :)

    The Prime Time Anytime recordings are on their own partition and it does not take any of the users space away from them. Besides the 8 days of Prime Time programming users will still have 250 HD recording time (1000 hours of SD time) available. :)

    I can’t wait to see the progress they have made next week at CES.

  13. “The Prime Time Anytime recordings are on their own partition and it does not take any of the users space away from them.”

    Ah. If it’s locally cached, then it is kosher. It didn’t make sense the other way due to legality issues.

    But then how do they do it with just three tuners? I don’t understand the mechanics here…

  14. I wonder if the “Hopper” will suport a dual OTA module like the current K models do?

  15. Chucky, the simplest way to explain how it is done is to say that your HD locals come from one satellite transponder. With a normal DVR it takes that mass signal (called a MUX) and breaks the signal down so it pulls the channel out of the mux that you want to watch.

    With hopper it actually records the entire transponder so everything that is on that transponder is being recorded. When you play back the DVR then pulls the channel out of the mux you want to watch. :)

    This hasnt been possible just because the amount of hard drive space recording that much information takes, however with a 2TB drive thats not an issue anymore.

    Don now it will not work with the dual ota module, there is not even a slot for it. There has been some talk of an add on USB OTA tuner, but not sure if that is still planned or not.

  16. Three tuners seems like kind of weak sauce for a whole-home DVR. TiVo, Verizon, and AT&T all have four, IIRC. DirecTV has five. Arris has six.

  17. The pulled article indicates the there tuners support 6 concurrent recordings. I left it out, since it seemed so unusual. So either that’s wrong, or it’s using the method similar Scott describes above – grabbing broad swaths of content/channels to then be parsed and distributed?

  18. Normally on the transponder that carries your locals (which is normally a spot beam) there are only 4 or 5 channels which are jus beamed to your area.

    So recording the mux from your spot beam sounds plausable and is how they record 6 things at one time (4 HD local networks and 2 other things off the satellite) :)

  19. Did DirecTV just come out with a whole home DVR with five tuners? How can a 3 tuner DVR be considered as a DVR for an entire household?

  20. “So recording the mux from your spot beam sounds plausable and is how they record 6 things at one time (4 HD local networks and 2 other things off the satellite)”

    So let me see if I have this straight:

    It has two free tuners beyond the Network auto-record. (Perhaps it has more free tuners outside of prime-time?)

    And what’s the MB free space on the non-prime-time partition?

    Satellite is so different than QAM that I’m a newbie here.

    But it does seem a semi-clever scheme, for a large bulk of use-cases.

  21. Will the tuners always record all of the channels on a transponder – the full MUX – or is that just something special for the “Primetime Anytime”? I’d guess normally it demuxes and records just one channel, to avoid wasting disc space. But I wonder if it is intelligent enough to schedule multiple recordings on one tuner if it knows they’re on the same transponder – or if it is even possible. Is it all or nothing? Say there are six channels on the transponder – is it one or six only? Record the whole stream and demux on channel on playback, or demux one channel to save and toss the rest.

  22. “But I wonder if it is intelligent enough to schedule multiple recordings on one tuner if it knows they’re on the same transponder”

    Without really understanding the underlying tech, I’d guess, as a generalist, that the engineering expense outweighs the marketing benefit…

  23. “Finally, a question. As an urban type, I have no experience with satellite TV. Who the hell are the customers? Is it only folks not properly served by wireline providers, or do they actually win some customers who have viable wireline options?”

    As you are a dazzling urbanite, it should be obvious that quite a few satellite customers live in rustic settings. And then there are the porn and sports junkies that subscribe.

    I used to be a DirecTV subscriber. At that time, I had the Tivo unit and was happy in my SD world. At some point, I did manage to put a larger HD in and get the thing to update without using the dialup modem.

    And then butterfingers, the ex , threw a dog toy.. And the machine died. I didn’t like the HD upgrade/leased equipment options, and I went to Comcast. And I’ve been on a month to month with them ever since.

    If my HDHomeRun Prime goes south, I’ll probably go back to the dish. I have an unending number of calls from Comcast’s Evergreen Marketing trying to bundle, or upsize me.

    But to be specific, DirecTV wasn’t hitting me for equipment fees, other than the Tivo. Stayed. Comcast was getting $20 @ month for the HD DVR. If I could get a no contract satellite deal, where I owned the DVR/BOX/DISH, I’d leave Comcast. Because Comcast SUCKS!!

  24. “If I could get a no contract satellite deal, where I owned the DVR/BOX/DISH, I’d leave Comcast. Because Comcast SUCKS!!”

    So the one-person anecdotal answer is that even customers with unpleasant wireline options choose the wireline over satellite.

    That’s kinda what I was wondering about…

    “As you are a dazzling urbanite”

    FTTH actually makes me someone who lives in the future. The ONT has a port that wires straight into the brain. It’s part of Verizon’s marketing pitch. Daily life in the future is actually pretty much like Minority Report, expect they’re still working out most of the bugs with the precogs. (I’d give you stock tips to profit from your being in the past, but detecting that action is already a reliable part of the precogs skillset.)

  25. “It’s part of Verizon’s marketing pitch.

    Yeah, that’s what that $2.00 fee was for, marketing, not convenience. If DirecTV went back to month-to-month, and dropped the equipment fees (I owned the box), I’d go back.

    ” The ONT has a port that wires straight into the brain.”
    That strikes me more as a reference to Organic Mental Core . The clones of the Destination:Void universe appear to have more talent than the precogs. The clones may need 7 tries to be successful, and were. But where are the precogs now? A backup band to Sinéad?

    The development of Minority Report relied upon the tension between Tom Cruise versus choice, and faith. And as Dick was on drugs during time, that cloudiness impacted the film, long after his death. The lead, is a midget, and a scientologist. To solve the majority of one’s problems, they believe in vitamins and exercise cure all problems. That gave us one of the more uninspiring performances. It’s like watching MST3K . You search the opening credits for references to Shatner, if found, you leave. That list as been expanded to Shatner, Cruise, Reeves, Bieber, Anniston, Simpson, and others……. Insert unicorn scene here….

  26. We may be off topic here… but beware of Xenu!

  27. Shamu? Shamwow? Ginsu? Hamlet Goes Business ?

  28. Xenu?!?!
    WTF!

  29. Is that for real?

  30. Caching programming IS legal as per court ruling. The key thing is that the saved programming can be accessed by the ONE subscription ONLY, and NOT available on a server, for instance, that is accessible to ALL subscribers. In other words, as long cable co saves the data on the portions associated with the ONE subscription account, that is OK. Of course, it means massive duplication of the data because the same programming has to save in, say, tens of thousands of places on the server in the case of cable cos. rather than the more efficient way of saving the data on ONE place for all to access when the wish.

    So, in Dish’s case, the data is being stored on the subscribers local HDD in the DVR, NOT accessible to any other subscribers. This is legal and won’t, in fact hasn’t, been challenged.

    MVPD’s are in the clear on caching so long as what is saved is accessible to ONLY that ONE subscription account.

  31. The system can easily add an additional Kangaroo for 3 more tuners providing 6 tuners to the network. Supposedly just plug it in and done. IMHO, the decision to have each Kangaroo with only 3 tuners may be for the following reasons:

    1.Lower cost to manufacture.

    2.More than three tuners recording concurrently for long periods will beat up the HDD’s and have failure occur sooner.

    3.Another good excuse to charge an additional fee for the 2nd Kangaroo to your network.

    As I understand it, although the Joeys/clients don’t have a tuner, they don’t need it as they access the tuner at the Kangaroo for live TV watching. As an EXTRA bonus all “trick play” is available at the clients, unlike the current DirecTV HMC. The Dish system is supposed to be designed as a seamless experience with the user never being aware of what tuner they are accessing or HOW any of this stuff is assigned on the network. IN other words it is supposed to be the same experience as if you were in the main room with the Kangaroos, except PIP only at the Kangaroo and NOT the clients, but everything else is supposed to be an identical experience.

  32. Bobby, 3 tuners is lower cost for DISH. But for customers that want more, I assume Hoppers run more than Joeys. Also, that reopens Ben’s query above – if you add a second Hopper, do you end up with cooperative scheduling and a unified playlist… or do you end up with two hubs to manage? Hm.

  33. What I have been told by DISH back in May when I first saw the XiP’s was that if you want more tuners just add another Hopper (XiP 813)

    When its plugged in and sees your network it automatically configures itself for one seem less network, you never know which tuner you are watching or what hard drive you shows are playing off of.

    They used an Apple line in describing it to me… “It just works.”

    Note however is that still the case today? A lot has changed about the product since I saw it in May. I guess the answer is we will find out on Monday when we see it in person.

  34. “And as Dick was on drugs during time…”

    PKD was on drugs during the writing of all of his books. In the 50′s, it was speed, and in the 60′s, it was psychedelics.

    In addition, he was a notably lousy prose writer. Yet, despite all that, all of his books are highly rewarding reading experiences. Better living through chemistry…

  35. Scott, if that’s how it works, it’d be very impressive. And they might be the first to get it right. Between that (possibility) and the automated 4 channel prime time recording, with refreshed UI, this could be a very compelling offering.

  36. I would be impressed too. :)

    With that said one of DISH’s biggest shortcomings lately is in the software department. They have taken some amazing hardware (such as a 722) then updated the software and caused issues.

    If they can get the software correct then it is something to be excited about. To me that is a big IF.

  37. So is 1TB (per the pics) enough for a whole-home DVR?

    On the Tivo over-the-air HD ATSC consumes almost 7GB/hour…

  38. That 1TB slide was from when they announced the XiP series this summer. They have made the wise descission to 2TB.

    Also remember on the Tivo thing 7GB an hour is the raw uncompress ATSC signal, while on DISH the signal is compressed with MPEG4 so it uses a lot less space. :)

  39. I know a lot of DirecTV channels are still MPEG2 since they continued to work with the old Tivo units. Thought it was only the locals that were encoded in MPEG4 in their case. Are all of the channels on Dish MPEG4?

    Agree that MPEG4 (e.g. h.264) should give you about a 2:1 coding advantage vs MPEG2 (typical cable/Tivo codec) so 1TB of space storing MPEG4 is comparable to a 2TB drive storing MPEG2 content.

    While the automatic recording of the locals is interesting, I’m not sure it would fit all of our DVR watching patterns. Some shows we watch relatively quickly, but others sit on the DVR for long periods of time before we watch them. And if I went on vacation the rollover period on the cache might be a problem, causing me to lose access to some shows before I watched them. I’m not sure the mental effort to keep track of all of this would be worth it to me very often. I’d probably just schedule recordings of all the shows I wanted anyway–with the possible exception of news, and topical shows like Letterman.

    I’m not certain caching has been declared legal honestly. Certainly not as part of the Cablevision decision. Every copying step in the process was examined and compared to a standard home DVR. That identical process was the basis for the decision. Since this is recording things without any user action, I’d say its clearly different. Whether anybody will sue over it… dunno.

    Comcast at least was planning to have two different types of network DVR recording–’common’ recordings for shows on channels they had permission for, and ‘unique’ for channels where they didn’t. Over time I suspect that content companies will recognize that they have no stake in maintaining this difference honestly, and the current method of keeping each user’s recordings separate will vanish.

    So Scott, what’s the bandwidth of the mux you’re talking about? In cable it would be 38.8MHz, the amount of data that can fit inside one 6MHz channel. And it would contain up to 10-ish SD channels or 2-3 HD channels. If they’re recording the equivalent of 4-5 7-8Mbps MPEG4 channels I’d expect something in the 28-40Mbps range…

  40. That previously published-then-hidden TWICE article is now online for real here. I didn’t read it closely and don’t know if it’s been updating since its early release, but DISH did mention to Scott at Satellite Guys there were some inaccuracies, which is why he too had temporarily pulled it.

  41. “That previously published-then-hidden TWICE article is now online for real here.”

    FWIW, that thing in your comment that looks like a hyperlink isn’t actually a hyperlink…

    —–

    This is cuter than the Hopper logo…

  42. Link fixed, thanks – I typo-ed href as herf.

    As far as mascots, it gets better… or worse. DISH had a real live baby kangaroo on hand. What?

  43. “No more ‘roos!”

    I think DISH should deliver a real live baby kangaroo to every single customer who orders a Hopper. Think of the publicity.

  44. Scott Greczkowski January 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Actually Dish is thinking about giving Kangaroos to new Hopper customers. (just not live ones) :)

  45. “just not live ones”

    Missing an opportunity there, mate.

    Again, just think of the publicity. Tens of thousands of YouTube videos would be uploaded. Cute li’l kangaroos generating kawaii. Funny li’l kangaroos generating laughs. Dead li’l kangaroos generating outrage.

    It’d utterly dominate both cable news and Twitter. It’d be the publicity generating machine of the century. Everyone would be talking about DISH…

  46. Scott Greczkowski January 12, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Baby kangaroos are cute until they are 6 feet tall and want to kick the living crap out of you all the time.

    I actually got time with one of the baby kangaroos, plus shot some video. It was a very cute animal. Too bad they have to grow… (wait I said that about my kids too) :)

  47. well being a Dish Tech I can Say that you can do up to 8 diff things at one time with the hopper. yeah thats right “8″. with the capability to add 3 “Joeys” to your network. if you need more tv watching than that just get another hopper. but honestly the average person watching 4 tvs at the same time while recording is remote. unless you are the partridge family or the bradys.

  48. well being a Dish Tech I can Say that you can do up to 8 diff things at one time with the hopper. yeah thats right “8″. with the capability to add 3 “Joeys” to your network. if you need more tv watching than that just get another hopper. but honestly the average person watching 4 tvs at the same time while recording is remote. unless you are the partridge family or the bradys.

    Baby kangaroos are cute until they are 6 feet tall and want to kick the living crap out of you all the time.

    I actually got time with one of the baby kangaroos, plus shot some video. It was a very cute animal. Too bad they have to grow… (wait I said that about my kids too :)
    :
    )

  49. I have had my HOPPER and JOEY dishnet work for 1 month and the tech people have been out to my house 4 or 5 times and the same problem is still going on.How many times do i have to give dish to get it fixed.I think we both should just say sorry its not working and they should pick up there equipment and say good luck and go our on ways.If i new it was going to be like this i would have never switched from my other satellite company.SO i ,well i’m not saying what i think about DISHNET WORKS BECAUSE IT DON’T WORK!!!!!!!!!! Thank you Doug Powers

  50. I had Dish Network since the mid 90′s and when I had the choice of having the Hopper or Directv’s 5 tuner receiver, I went for the best, the Directv receiver. The Hopper sucks from what I hear.

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