Las Vegas – Dish Network used this year’s CES to unleash its next-gen whole home HD-DVR, the Hopper 3, a device that supports 4K video and packs 16 tuners and 2 terabytes of storage.
Dish, which also introduced a portable video device called the Hopper Go (see further below for more details), introduced its latest hopper as the satellite TV giant looks to amp up its pay TV subscriber numbers. Dish lost 23,000 video subs in Q3, ending the period with 13.91 million.
The Hopper 3 will carry forward elements from earlier-generation Hoppers, including integrated Sling Media place-shifting technology and AutoHop capability, but will sport a faster processor (the Broadcom BCM7445 Ultra HD TV Home Gateway chip) that will result in faster response times for Dish’s coming “touch” remote, which is still in beta.
The Hopper 3 will also bake in MoCA 2.0 (for whole-home support via coax lines), a gigabit Ethernet port, and a USB 3.0 port for expanded storage.
The 16-tuner device will enable customers to attach up to 6 “Joey” client devices, meaning that seven different shows can be watched in the home at the same time. Dish customers will also be able to watch and record up to 16 shows at once. By comparison, the original Hopper had three tuners, and could record up to eight shows when linked to the five-tuner Super Joey.
The Hopper 3 is expected to start shipping this month and cost $15 per month. Dish will also offer a free upgrade for new and existing qualified customers, Vivek Khemka, Dish’s recently promoted executive vice president and chief technology officer, said in a recent briefing.
With respect to the tuner expansion in the Hopper 3, Khemka said a key goal is to provide customer peace of mind when it comes to the ability to record and watch multiple programs.
That capability also allows Dish to one-up Cablevision Systems’ multi-room DVR and a multi-device X1 setup that Comcast is testing that enables customers to record up to 15 shows at once. Verizon FiOS TV’s Quantum TV platform lets users record up to 10 shows at once when they combine the functions of two Arris-made Verizon Media Servers.
On the Ultra HD front, the Hopper 3 support 4K content up to 60 frames per second. Early on, Dish will offer 4K fare via deals with Sony Pictures, The Orchard and Mance Media, as well as Netflix’s growing 4K library (Dish has been integrating the Netflix app on its Hopper platform since late 2014). Speaking of Netflix, the OTT service is also being included in Dish’s universal search function for the Hopper 2 and Hopper 3.
In addition to delivering 4K streams, the Hopper 3 ,which will also be integrating access to YouTube in the “coming months,” will also let subs with 4K TVs stitch four live HD streams onto the TV screen at the same time. That capability – something Khemka referred to as “sports bar mode” during a recent briefing – essentially decodes four HD streams into one 4K stream and takes advantage of the extra tuners packed into the Hopper 3.
When enabled, that mosaic option will stitch together the last four channels the viewer watched, though customers can also define which channels are included. Subs hear the audio feed of the HD tile that is highlighted.
Splitting screens is another way to “show off the power of 4K,” Khemka said.
Khemka said Dish is also set to launch the Joey 4K later this month. That device, announced at last year’s CES, works in tandem with the Hopper, including Dish’s previous-gen HD-DVR. Like other Joeys, the 4K version will cost $7 per month, plus an upfront fee of $49.
The Hopper 3 is compatible with the standard Joey, Wireless Joey and coming 4K Joey.
On the video mobility end, Dish also introduced the Hopper Go, a USB-connected device with 64 gigabytes of flash memory that lets subs transfer up to 100 hours of DVR-recorded content for offline viewing on a mobile device. Dish subs with the Hopper 3 or Hopper 3 will be able to link up to five mobile devices to the Hopper Go via WiFi, and Android tablet and smartphone users will have the added option of connecting via a USB cable.
The Hopper Go will sell for $99 and ship in Q1 2016, Khemka said.