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Dish Network Gears Up For a Video Arms Race

LAS VEGAS — Looking to one-up its rivals and arm itself for the ongoing battle for video “enthusiasts,” Dish Network last week trotted out a slew of additions and enhancements to its flagship Hopper whole-home HD-DVR platform.

The highlight was the Super- Joey, a device that enables the satellite-TV provider’s subs to record as many as eight shows at once when paired with the primary Hopper HD-DVR With Sling. In that setup, the baseline Hopper box, which is outfitted with three tuners, adds two more tuners from the SuperJoey.

Dish said the combination can record up to eight shows simultaneously, as long as that total includes four shows from the a major broadcast channels (ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS). Dish’s Primetime Anytime feature, which records the primetime hours of those broadcast channels, uses technology that can ingests all four live broadcast-TV feeds on a single tuner.

Without Primetime Anytime enabled, the Hopper/ SuperJoey combo can record up to five shows at the same time.

“Say goodbye to channel conflict,” Dish CEO Joe Clayton said at a press conference here.

Dish will use the supersized duo to fend off competitors such as DirecTV, whose Genie whole-home DVR is capable of recording up to five programs at once, a number matched by Comcast’s current X1 platform. Cablevision Systems’ recently upgraded, cloud-based, $12.95/month Multi-Room DVR currently beats them — it can record up to 10 shows at once.

Dish also introduced the Wireless Joey, a device that uses 802.11ac Wi-Fi to spray live and recorded video to IP-based devices connected to the customer’s home network.

Establishing a direct link with retail CE manufacturers, Dish has also developed “Virtual Joey” applications for newer-model LG Electronics television sets, as well as Sony’s PlayStation 3, and recently launched PlayStation 4 gaming consoles. The app delivers the Hopper experience without a separate hardware device.

Moving to the second screen, the Dish Anywhere app now supports Amazon’s Kindle Fire devices, complementing the access it has already been providing on Apple iOS and Google Android-powered tablets and smartphones. Dish Anywhere recently integrated Hopper Transfers, a component that lets users sideload recorded content to a mobile device, and supports the viewing of live and on-demand content on the home network or when the user is on the go (via Sling).

Dish also introduced an upgraded version of the Dish Explorer app with voice-based search and control capabilities.

Finally, Dish also announced that its customeracquisition partnership with Apple will continue into 2014, with new, qualified Dish Hopper subscribers in line to receive a free iPad Mini.

The Apple tie-in has created a halo effect for Dish, senior vice president and chief marketing officer James Moorehead said, citing research indicating that 60% of consumers who took the offer last year had a more positive impression of the pay TV company. On average, those customers told another five people about the iPad promotion, he said.

Dish hopes the new product mix will help it stay on a hot streak. In November, the company added a better-than-expected 35,000 net new video customers.

Dish has not disclosed how many customers use the Hopper HD-DVR, but the platform powers about 6 million “screens,” Dave Shull, Dish’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said.