Dish Super-Sizes DVR Family Record Up

As fight for pay-TV subs intensifies, satcaster also renews free iPad offer for qualifying new customers

As the fight for pay-TV subscribers grows fiercer, Dish Network is trying to win the hearts of television fanatics by enhancing the DVR features of its Hopper line to become even more binge-friendly.

Dish is unveiling the SuperJoey, a device that adds two additional tuners to a main Hopper DVR, at a press conference at the 2014 International CES on Monday.

That will let a customer with a Hopper DVR and a SuperJoey record up to eight simultaneous shows – any four they choose, along with the shows of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC as part of Dish’s PrimeTime Any Time service. Alternately, users can choose to record any five shows. The SuperJoey is scheduled to be available sometime in the first quarter of 2014.

The SuperJoey “virtually ends channel conflict,” Dish CEO and president Joe Clayton said in announcing the product.

The satcaster is looking for new ways to attract — and retain — customers as it is set to raise rates Feb. 1, hiking fees for most subscribers by $5 per month.

Also Monday, Dish said that beginning Jan. 17 it will give qualified new subscribers a free iPad Mini (or a one-year programming discount) if they signed up for Hopper DVR service for two-year contract. Last year, Dish launched a promo in May giving a free iPad 2 to qualified new subs.

With five user-selected DVR recordings, Dish’s expanded capacity now matches that of DirecTV’s Genie DVR, which provides a max of five concurrent recordings. The Hopper’s overall storage capacity of 2 terabytes — twice that of the DirecTV Genie — remains unchanged. The 2-TB hard drive is enough space to record up to 500 hours of HD programming (or up to 2,000 hours of standard-definition content).

Also at CES, Dish is unveiling a “Virtual Joey” feature to let subscribers access programming on select LG Smart TVs from a Hopper. The satcaster expects to extend the feature to Sony PlayStation 3 and 4 videogame consoles in the first half of 2014, with other devices on tap.

In addition, Dish is launching the Wireless Joey, to sling DVR recordings and live TV over Wi-Fi throughout the home. The Wireless Joey system uses 802.11ac Wi-Fi; it includes an access point that connects directly to the primary Hopper to support one or two wireless receivers. Dish expects the Wireless Joey access point and receivers to be available in Q2 2014.

DVRs are becoming more popular among TV viewers, but more than half of all television homes still don’t have one. About 47% of TV households have a DVR — up from 40% in 2010 — according to a report last month from Leichtman Research Group. Of those, half have DVR service on more than one TV.

Other enhancements to the Hopper DVR include a new interface with recommended shows and better tuner management . The satcaster said the DVR will now support transfers of content to the Dish Anywhere app for Apple iOS and Android devices, with a version for Amazon’s Kindle coming later in the first quarter.

Finally, Dish said it added voice search and Hopper control capabilities to its Dish Explorer second-screen app for Apple iPads.

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