CES: Dish Makes Its 4K Play

Debuts Ultra HD Joey Box, Other New Hopper-Facing Services
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Las Vegas – International CES -- Keeping pace with other major MVPDs, Dish Network on Monday introduced a 4K box and several other new features and services that will hook into its core Hopper HD-DVR platform. 

The 4K Ultra HD Joey (pictured) will be available this summer and will be outfitted with the bandwidth-saving H.265/HEVC platform, 10-bit color, HDMI 2.0 (enabling up to 60 frames per second) alongside with the ability to decode legacy content that’s delivered in MPEG-4/H.264 and MPEG-2, the company said.

The device, which can connect like a standard Joey, is also equipped with a Broadcom-made dual-core ARM chipset, Bluetooth audio, and picture-in-picture capabilities. That capability, the company said, will let consumers watch two shows in HD side-by-side.

In a recent briefing, Vivek Khemka, Dish’s senior vice president of product management, said the company decided to pull the trigger on a 4K offering once it determined that screen prices and standards were ready to enable broad consumer adoption of the format.

At launch, Dish will deliver 4K VOD content via satellite to the Hopper HD-DVR, which will pass along the content over the home network to the 4K Joey for playback. It will also be possible to stream 4K content directly to the new Joey device, Khemka explained.

Khemka said the strategy will enable Dish to “drop ship” or have a tech install the new 4K device to the Hopper HD-DVR ecosystem without disrupting Dish’s consumer base. “This gets us into the [4K] space,”  he said.

It also enables Dish to offer 4K content on a wide range of 4K TV models. DirecTV and Comcast both launched 4K-VOD offerings last year that are initially limited to access on Samsung-made UHD sets. However, Comcast does have plans to offer its Xfinity in HD library via its Xfinity TV Go TV Everywhere app and on new 4K-capable boxes that run the MSO’s IP-capable X1 platform.

Dish did not announce any 4K content partnerships at CES, but has deals in the works, Khemka told Multichannel News

The 4K Joey was just one of several Dish product announcements tied to its core pay-TV platform.

Dish also announced that its Hopper and Joey boxes are adding support for several third-party OTT music offerings, including Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn, as well as to Vevo, the music video streaming service. In addition to accessing those apps through the Hopper, the company is also working on the Dish Music app. Set for a summer launch, that app will “discover” Hopper and Joey devices on the home network and let customers select from multiple music sources and independently control what music is being piped into the house.

For the Hopper, Dish also introduced a streamlined, voice-capable remote control that features fewer buttons, and no number keys – though the integrated touchpad can light up and double as a clickable number pad. The new remote, about the size of an iPhone 5 and also slated for a summer launch, also will allow customers search for content with voice commands. The voice remote will come standard with all Hopper units, the company said, noting that existing customers will also be able to buy it for an “affordable” price – expected to be in the range of $10 to $15. The remote will also work with Joey boxes.

Dish also spread some love to the overall user interface, showing off a new “Carbon” navigation system that features a flatter, high-contrast design that makes text easier to read than the current UI. The new UI, to be rolled out on a staggered basis before the summer, also allows customers to select from multiple text sizes and “swipe” to another screen using the new remote’s touchpad.

Here at CES, Khemka said Dish has more than 10 million “screens” powered by Hopper HD-DVRs and Joey devices.

Also on Monday, Dish introduced its anticipated OTT offering, dubbed Sling TV. The single-stream service, targeted to cord-cutters and consumers who have yet to take a traditional pay-TV service, is starting at $20 per month.