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Showtime Upgrades ITV App on EchoStar's Dish Network

Showtime Networks launched version 2.0 of its interactive-TV application on EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network this week, adding digital-video-recording features for subscribers and providing promotional video clips to entice nonsubscribers to sign up.

The application, developed using OpenTV’s ITV platform, was a complete rewrite of the mostly text-based version 1.0, first deployed in 2003, Showtime vice president of interactive television Dave Preisman said.

Showtime Interactive 2.0, he added, looks more like a DVD menu with promotional video clips running in the main window on the screen.

“Now we can deliver long-form content through this application,” Preisman said. “It really comes to life.”

The app automatically downloads a certain amount of video -- including trailers, behind-the-scenes takes, interviews and other extras -- onto the DVR of every Dish subscriber. Showtime wouldn’t disclose how much space it’s allowed to take up on the hard drive.

The application detects whether or not a viewer is a subscriber. For those who already get Showtime, the ITV app provides program listings for all 10 of the network’s channels and allows viewers to schedule a DVR recording.

For nonsubscribers, the app includes a prominent Get Showtime button that lets someone subscribe with a few clicks of the remote control.

Showtime has generated “hundreds of thousands” of orders to date through the ITV application, according to Preisman, who noted that the automated process cuts down phone calls to Dish’s customer-service center.

What about cable? Preisman said Showtime has developed a version of its ITV app for a few MSOs. For example, Time Warner Cable’s Oceanic Cable division in Hawaii has deployed a Showtime ITV application.

But, Preisman noted, the challenge is that individual cable systems are at different phases of deploying ITV, and MSOs often aren’t using the same platform everywhere. “There is not a mass deployment of ITV in cable,” he added. “There are 11.5 million households with Dish, and right now, with cable, that doesn’t exist.”