Dish Networks Hopper with Slingbox


CES is in full swing today and Dish Network made their announcement yesterday. Their CEO Joe Clayton unveiled the latest DVR from Dish called Hopper again. With a bundle of new features this DVR package is pretty impressive. The new Hopper (only 8 months after the original Hopper) comes with the following upgrades:

  • 1.3GHz Broadcom Processor
  • WiFi
  • Slingbox (integrated)
  • Hopper Transfers (iPad only)
  • Dish Explorer
  • AutoHop (automatic commercial skip)
  • PrimeTime Anytime
With the new hardware upgrades your Hopper is more likely to play the way you want. It will be a bit faster in menus and jumping between content.


You may remember back in 2007 when EchoStar purchased Slingbox, ok maybe not, but they did. Before then Slingbox was just an add on device to make sharing content to devices possible. Well EchoStar bought Slingbox and for a while people wondered how they were going to use the technology.

With the first Hopper you could plug in a Slingbox and sling videos to your mobile devices. The integration was actually pretty good, but you still had to buy an extra box. The new Hopper has the Slingbox built in, so there is no need to add any more hardware. That is like getting a free $299 Slingbox when you upgrade to Hopper.

Hopper Transfers

Hopper Transfers is probably the biggest jump in technology for this setup. The Hopper will allow you to encode recordings “in real time” to push over WiFi to your iPad (Android and other device support is expected someday). The limitation of file size is the main concern here as an hour TV show in HD compresses down to about 2GB. So if you are rocking a lower end iPad you will need to be conscious of your transfers.

There are also DRM limitations, as far as I know right now you are limited to 5 transfers of any single file. That means up to 5 devices, or copying it to the same iPad up to 5 times. I don’t really see that being a HUGE problem for most people as I would expect this feature to be used most in time of commuting. How many times are you really going to watch that episode of The Big Bang Theory?

Dish Explorer

Dish Explorer is a smartphone/tablet app that acts as a companion while watching TV. Instead of using the on screen menu and guide you can use your phone/tablet and control your Hopper. So you can surf through the guides and menus and then make your selection, your DVR picks up the request and just does as you ask.

AutoHop (automatic commerical skipping)

If there is one universal truth it is this: Networks hate this feature.  To the consumer, at least for now, that means nothing, they don’t care. The feature is built so that when you are watching TV shows pre-recorded on your Dish Hopper, it will automatically skip the commercials. The truth is people with DVRs have always wanted this feature. This isn’t the first device to do it either.

Why do networks hate this? It makes their advertising spots worth less money. The current landscape of DVRs have skip buttons, but consumers forget to use them, and are subjected to commercials. This new feature automatically skips the commercials that DVR consumers were forgetting to skip on their own. Which means more people will be watching less commercials. That means those commercials will be less valuable on the networks. Which means those networks are going to lose money. We will see how long this feature lasts. In the past the networks have come together to fight these features, and in some case have really used their collective weight to win and destroy companies in the wake. Good luck Dish.

PrimeTime Anytime

The term prime time is often defined in terms of a fixed time period—for example, from 19:00 to 22:00 (Central and Mountain Time) or 20:00 to 23:00 (Eastern and Pacific Time) (7 p.m. to 10 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.).
PrimeTime Anytime is not a new feature, to be honest. The first Hopper offered this feature as well. The claim is that during Prime Time the Hopper will record 6 channels of your favorite shows. Well I hope you enjoy ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, because those are hard coded channels. Let me explain that with Dish’s own site:
…it automatically records all the shows on the four major networks in HD (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) Monday through Saturday from 8-11 p.m. and Sundays from 7-11:00 p.m. EST when enabled. But that’s not all. Not only do the recordings on PrimeTime Anytime™ not take up any of your personal DVR space (that’s 2TB—which is up to 2000 hours), but while these 4 shows are recording you can still record 2 other shows of your choice!

Read more:

I highlighted those pieces to emphasize the important details. These channels are NOT recorded to your Dish Network Hopper. Ever. They are simply streamed to your Hopped when you want to watch them. Here is another piece of the PrimeTime Anyime puzzle:
Once PrimeTime Anytime™ is turned on, you will be able to access the recorded primetime shows whenever you like for eight days after they’ve aired.

Read more:

You only have 8 days to watch those for networks shows. Then they are removed from the streaming server. End of story.

While PrimeTime Anytime is a very neat concept I still think the Genie from DirecTV is a better option for people who truly want multiple channel recording as it offers a true 5 tuner experience. More on that another time.

Round This Out

Dish Network has really upped the game in the market of getting technology working with your TV schedule. Being able to transfer movies to devices that will go offline, and being able to watch anything on your DVR from anywhere are pretty awesome. It will be interesting to see how DirecTV and the cable companies fight back.