CES: Dish previews new HD DVRs

Kangaroos on stage to promote two set-top boxes

Dish Network is counting on a couple of kangaroos to kick off a new era for its business.

The satellite company unveiled a pair of new flagship set-top boxes dubbed Hopper and Joey at its annual CES press conference on Monday, as well as a new faster broadband satellite Internet service. The new multi-room HD DVR combo will also be part of a new corporate identity.

“Today is a new dawn for Dish,” said Dish CEO Joe Clayton, who came on stage cradling a baby kangaroo to reinforce the new branding. “We are basically relaunching our company and re-energizing our brand and we are well on our way to transforming our company.”

Launching later in the first quarter of the year, the Hopper will act as the centerpiece of a home’s entertainment complex, with smaller Joey boxes (each the same width as a dollar bill) acting as additional receivers.

The Hopper will boast a 2 terabyte hard drive, capable of holding up to 2,000 hours of content. It can record up to six high-definition programs at one time and can be viewed from up to four rooms in the house.

“Viewers do not care about the set-top box itself, but they do want to know about the benefits it provides them,” said Clayton, who did not disclose the pricing on the new products.

Dish announced it has become the first MSO to strike a deal with HBO that will see the entirety of the content available on its digital platform, HBO Go, also on its VOD platform, HBO On Demand.

The company will also offer 73 channels of commercial-free music from Sirius and will extend those offerings to most of its package offerings. Dish will also offer a feature called “Prime Time Anytime,” which will allow customers to record an entire evening’s primetime programming on all networks, with the touch of a single button for eight days.Customers can then catch up on whichever shows they may have missed — a stab at Hulu’s functionality.

The satellite service continues to be tied in with the Blockbuster streaming service, Blockbuster @Home. New content deals, including a pact with Univision that will add as many as 3,000 new titles, bring the total volume of programs to over 10,000.Blockbuster @Home is offered free for three months to subs who sign up for a two-year Dish subscription; otherwise it costs $10 per month to get titles through a mix including discs by mail, streaming VOD and linear channels.For subs who don’t have broadband connections, Dish will take advantage of the Hopper’s huge hard drive, automatically delivering (and caching) the most popular streaming titles to the set-top box via satellite each day via a new service dubbed Dish Unplugged.

Dish Network also announced it is dropping “Network” from the title of its products, but retaining it for its corporate name, and getting a new logo, website and promo campaign featuring the kangaroo-inspired brands to inject more personality into the service, which Clayton described as being too focused on cost savings in the past.”Dish wants its products to be perceived more like the mobile phone industry,” said Clayton, dropping names such as the Razr and Droid as models for better branding.By anchoring the myriad elements of the new-look Dish to its souped-up DVR, the satcaster is continuing to demonstrate faith in driving more value to its bundle rather than disaggregating its products to sign up subscribers interested in cheaper offerings. Dish followed the same strategy when it first launched Blockbuster Movie Pass as an add-on to existing service rather than break it out as a lower-priced separate service capable of competing with Netflix, as many analysts expected when it was deployed last year.

Mindful of how often consumers lose their remote controls, the company has also included a feature on the Hopper that helps them find those clickers. By pressing a button on the set top box, the remote will begin beeping, letting people locate them.

Dish also introduced a broadband satellite offering in partnership with ViaSat that will offer speeds of up to 12 Mbs. The company will bundle it with its Pay TV offerings, with prices starting at $79.99 per month.

“Up until now, broadband satellite has over promised and under delivered. Not anymore,” said Clayton. ” The market opportunity for this new internet service is substantial. Nearly 8-10 million homes … now have a faster broadband alternative. We see significant growth potential from this category.”