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Dish’s Hopper: a whole-home DVR with a primetime twist

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Dish Network (s DISH) will bet big on the DVR to help it win over more customers and fight off competition from DirecTV (s DTV) and other pay TV operators, as well as the growing threat of catchup streaming TV services like Hulu. The satellite TV provider is coming out with new-and-improved recording devices that can work with up to four TVs throughout the home.

At the center of Dish’s new whole-home DVR solution is a set-top box called the Hopper, which includes a 2TB hard drive capable of storing up to 2,000 hours of video content. It also includes Joeys, which are smaller, thin-client devices that can stream live or pre-recorded content to any room in the house. Not surprisingly, the Hopper and Joey boxes were built by Dish’s sister corporation EchoStar, and take advantage of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) spec.

The Hopper has three tuners, but here’s the twist: One of those tuners is set to record all four major broadcast stations during primetime hours. Called “PrimeTime Anytime,” the new service automatically DVRs the most popular and most watched shows from ABC, (s DIS) CBS, (s CBS) Fox (s NWS) and NBC. (s CMCSA)(s GE) That means that Dish users will have access to eight days worth of broadcast content without having to worry about setting their DVRs. In addition to PrimeTime Anytime content, Dish subscribers can record two more programs from other channels, meaning the DVR can store up to six programs simultaneously during prime-time hours.

For those who connect their set-top box to the Internet, the Hopper will be able to access thousands of streaming titles from Dish’s Blockbuster service, which is being renamed Blockbuster @Home. And, the satellite provider is also rolling out a new feature called Dish Unplugged, which will allow satellite users without broadband access to view hundreds of popular on-demand movie titles by downloading them directly to the Hopper’s hard drive.

Due to the introduction of PrimeTime Anytime and Dish Unplugged, much of the Hopper’s recording capacity will be used up at any given time, meaning subscribers won’t be able to take advantage of the full 2TB themselves. However, even with those services, they’ll be able to record about 1,000 hours of SD programming or 250 hours of HD programming on the box.

Finally, in addition to more advanced recording capabilities, the Hopper will feature TV apps that give subscribers access to social networks, games, news, weather, sports and stock information. And subscribers will be able to access and manage the DVR and other features through the web or through Dish’s Remote Access App.

For Dish, the bet on the DVR runs somewhat counter to other pay TV operators, which are trying to win over customers with more on-demand content, as well as greater access to streaming titles through TV Everywhere initiatives. But given the fact that Dish doesn’t provide broadband services to its customers, that’s probably a good idea. Giving them as much content as possible through its own satellite feed and set-top box might be one way to ensure that they don’t go to Hulu and other services to catch up on shows they might have missed.

13 Responses to “Dish’s Hopper: a whole-home DVR with a primetime twist”

  1. i had the hopper installed yesterday and it is fantastic. i had uverse and was waiting for dish to come out wit a total home dvr and they did great. it records all four major networks and you can just move the ones you want to your pvr. you can record two other channels at the same time so you are recording a total of 6 at the same time. the digital graphics are great and i have had no problem so far. im glad i switched from uverse, and you still have to carry uverse internet and voice through at&t so far im very satisfied with the service. jj

  2. What was not discussed was some of the weaknesses of the hopper/joey set up.

    If the hopper goes bad, then the joey(s) connected to that hopper cannot be viewed because the joey(s) do not have tuners. You will have to wait for a replacement hopper to arrive in order to watch on tv(s) that have a joey connected.

    Prime time anytime is ONLY available during prime time, 7-11 pm. ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. The big four networks have to be your locals and be broadcast in high def by Dish Network, if not then the channel(s) that are not in hd will not be available for the prime time feature. The six programs being recorded at the same time have to be on FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS and two other channels. It will not let you record six cable channels at once (USA, FX, HBO, TNT, STARZ, DISCOVERY). The rest of the time, the hopper can only record three programs at once and on any channel.

    A one hopper, three joey will have a viewing conflict when four people want to watch four different live programs at the same time. Three tv’s will be able to watch live programming while the fourth tv will have to view a recorded program or watch what one of the other tv is viewing. And if one or more programs are being recorded, then the live viewing conflict will get worse.

    The majority of the two terabyte hard drive is used by dish for other downloaded programming. In fact about 1/4 of the hard drive can be used by the end used to record programming.

    The hopper/joey setup is not compatible with the current vip series of receivers. If you have a hopper and a 722, the tv with the 722 connected will not be able to view programming stored on the hopper. The tv with the 722 will need the 722 replaced with either another hopper or joey.

  3. Dish is by far the best and cheapest provider.I’ve had them all,but currently have Comcast which I hate.I can’t get a dish due to trees,which I’m not cutting down,I wish they would come up with a way to make it possible to receive the signal thru obstacles.

  4. Hi Ryan, Do you know if the OTA (over the air) connection will still be available? On my current DVR I can actually record 3 things simultaneously (2 over satellite and one OTA).. I wondering if that options will still be there. thx

  5. Ryan, the last I knew, a tuner is a device that selects one TV channel out of all the available ones. So how does one tuner record all four major broadcast stations?

    • All the ‘Big 4’ locals for an area are carried on a single transponder on a satellite. When a satellite box tunes its actually tuning to that transponder, then filtering out the one channel it wants. With this instead of filtering out the one channel, they record the entire transponder, or all 4 channels. So you can get 4 channels with 1 tuner.

      They could theoretically do this with other channels, but those would be randomly organized unlike the locals