Archives For Satellite TV

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As they do each year, CNET convened to determine the Best of CES. From Editor-in-Chief Lindsey Turrentine:

Last week, about 40 members of the CNET editorial staff met in the CNET trailer in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center to vote on our official Best of CES winner. [...] Ultimately, we chose the Dish Hopper for our Best of CES award because of innovative features that push shows recorded on DVR to iPads.

Of course there’s tons of compelling new technology at CES and whittling it down to a single show representative is quite challenging. Yet, having spent time with the DISH Hopper, we too came away impressed… as it’s quite possibly the most powerful and most versatile DVR ever produced. And it’ll surely end up in more homes than our CES favorite, the Lenovo Table PC.

The new DISH Hopper with Sling builds upon the success of their highly regarded first gen Hopper, retaining consumer-friendly features of automagically recording prime time network programming and then skipping commercials during playback — it’s got the studio’s panties in a wad and may cost DISH dearly when it’s time to renegotiate those carriage contracts. But they seem to relish a good fight. And perhaps that’s why they’re showing no fear in further risking the wrath of content providers by incorporating Slingbox technology… Continue Reading…

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The “second screen” onslaught continues as DISH unveils a brand spanking new Explorer companion app to kick off their CES festivities. Available to Hopper owners tomorrow, the iPad app opens to “What’s Hot” as a launching point to social television discovery and DVR control. Of course, the requisite Twitter and Facebook interactivity is present. Interestingly, DISH has also licensed a variety of real time sports-related data to incorporate into the experience. Continue Reading…

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DISH Network has rolled out an update to their well received Hopper DVR that, among other things, seems to respond directly to broadcaster concerns of an unlicensed on demand service that has led to a multitude of lawsuits.

If you recall, the Hopper incorporates a consumer friendly Prime Time Anytime feature to automate the recording of prime time network programming, with shows retained 8 days. Building upon that functionality, DISH then introduced Auto Hop commercial skip functionality… which, of course, the broadcasters did not respond well to.

To possibly head off or limit the pending legal action, DISH has tweaked both these services to require a bit more user interaction and to enable more granular control. Continue Reading…

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DISH Network continues to tempt fate (and the studio empire) given the introduction of automatic commercial skipping via their Hopper DVR and Joey extenders. If you recall, this new and highly regarded whole home solution features “Primetime Anytime” which records local prime time television programming (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) and retains this content 8 days. Those very same recordings, or perhaps a subset given the fine print, will now display the Hopper pink kangaroo icon a few hours after broadcast, indicating “Auto Hop” commercial skip is available.

DISH says Auto Hop is something we “consumers have been waiting for since the dawn of television.” Which isn’t entirely accurate… As we’ve only been waiting since Replay TV excised similar functionality (available on any channel/recording) under legal studio pressure. Will history repeat itself? Or, perhaps, DISH’s technical implementation and limited scope insulates them in some way. Regardless, it’s interesting to compare and contrast their customer-centric approach to the conflicted Comcast that just filed a patent application to inject onscreen advertising overlays when customers fast forward by commercials.

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TiVo isn’t the only game in town when it comes to merging subscription television with Internet content via a set-top. And DISH Network is next in line to offer Pandora music streaming from their new Hopper, whole-home DVR. It’s the same Pandora you know and love – create or sign into an account and stream personalized “radio” stations. For now it’s just the Hopper hub with access, but Joey extender support is expected in June and DISH tells me they’re looking at possibly bringing tunes to the ViP 922. If you don’t have DISH, DirecTV and Verizon are other providers who offer Pandora. Which, I suppose, is less threatening to their business model than say Netflix access.

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Beginning last week, a subset of DirecTV subscribers may have experienced tighter HDMI output controls limiting their ability to view HBO via the television and connectivity options of their choice. The scope of the lockdown isn’t yet clear, but at least one HR20 owner and a THR22 (the new, old TiVo) have been negatively impacted by this change. Brent D. tells me there was zero proactive outreach and support informed him implementation was required by the studios by 4/12 and offered to send component cables to overcome his older Toshiba HDTV’s lack of High-bandwith Digital Content Protection (HDCP).

I reached out to both HBO and DirecTV for comment. HBO indicates their copy protection policies haven’t recently changed, while DirecTV’s rep confirms a HDCP requirement for premium channels when using HDMI connections and suggests customers with older TVs switch to component cables. I’d say this is anti-consumer and a misguided approach to reducing piracy as it’s much easier to archive video traveling via an analog component connection. Unless DirecTV or HBO’s ultimate intent is to provide lower resolution 540p video over component…

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What makes this move particularly offensive is, unlike Blu-ray’s analog sunset, DirecTV’s lockdown is occurring on deployed hardware – with no outreach, knowledge base articles (that I can find), and essentially breaking formerly working customer configurations. Impacted subscribers can give up HDMI for component clutter or buy new televisions. Nice?

Brent points out the irony:

It is frustrating to be caught unaware and then not be able to watch the HBO subscription that I pay for. I am beginning to have sympathy for content pirates, as there are so many barriers to me actually using the subscription that I pay for. Yes, the subscription that I pay for! I pay for it!

Is DirecTV Sabotaging TiVo?

Dave Zatz —  January 23, 2012 — 29 Comments

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On a few separate occasions over the last couple weeks, I’ve received both inquiries and accusations suggesting that DirecTV is  out to get TiVo… given their underwhelming new DirecTV TiVo DVR. From our writeup last month:

It’s everything we expected, but nothing we hoped for. The unit features TiVo’s original standard definition user interface, now branded as their “Classic” UI, running on outdated DirecTV hardware. So it’s neither the best TiVo experience, nor is it the best DirecTV DVR.

Christopher Price of PhoneNews cornered TiVo at CES and pitched us with the provocative theory that “DTV is sabotaging TiVo by making their boxes inferior to DTV.” From his write-up lamenting DirecTV’s lack of TiVoToGo:

Representatives for TiVo blamed DirecTV squarely for not offering the technology on their units. TiVo even went as far as to say that they had offered DirecTV a solution that would ensure copy protection requirements for DirecTV, but that the service provider still mandated that TiVo remove TiVoToGo from the new generation of DirecTV-enabled TiVo HD units.

While many agree that this new DirecTV TiVo DVR isn’t very compelling, I find Chris’ theory of sabotage highly unlikely – verging on the preposterous. First, DirecTV and TiVo are not competitors. Second, DirecTV will take a bath if the deal doesn’t work out as they bankrolled development of this product and “has obligations to nationally market [TiVo], and those obligations are substantial.”   Continue Reading…