Dish’s new second-screen app looks good, which should worry its competition

Dish (S DISH) announced a second-screen app at CES Sunday that combines the traditional programming grid with social discovery and remote control for the company’s set-top-boxes. The app, which will be available for iPads (s AAPL) starting Monday, gives subscribers an option to find new shows they want to watch and schedule recordings or change the channel immediately. It covers all its bases, which should make some of its upstart competitors nervous.

Some of the app’s functionality may seem familiar: second-screen apps like Zeebox have been offering discovery through their apps for some time, and apps like Peel even offer some control capability when paired with the right hardware. But there are two things that stand out with Dish’s app, and they have a lot to do with what Dish brings to the table in the second screen space:

Dish's second-screen app makes use of data from Trendr and Thuutz.
Dish’s second-screen app makes use of data from Trendrr and Thuutz.

First, Dish doesn’t have to rely on automated content recognition to find out what’s on TV, simply because Dish already knows what you’re watching. The company is running your set-top-box, after all. So no more ugly workarounds that require your tablet to listen to your TV’s audio, only to tell you with a notable delay what’s on TV.

Secondly, Dish is making some good use of third-party providers for some of the media and social smarts used in the app. The company is relying on sports data from Thuutz to tell viewers which of the currently airing games are the most exciting ones. And it’s making extensive use of data from Trendrr to gather social sentiment across Twitter, Facebook, (s FB) GetGlue and others, which makes it possible to show which shows are “hot” on social networks. The reason for this is obvious: Dish doesn’t have to reinvent TV discovery services, because that’s not where the money is for the company. So it can rely on third parties to make its own product better.

Which brings up an interesting question: If an operator like Dish can build a second-screen app without any of the complicated hoops that some of its start-up competitors have to jump through, then why should consumers install a third-party app? Sure, some of the apps built by startups may look hipper and come with a few more bells and whistles, but really, will consumers care?

Or will they just go for what’s good enough, and sure to work with their in-home setup?