Dish Opens Up on TV Apps

Open API Program to Help Second Screen Developers Build Apps for Dish’s Tablet-Based 'Explorer' Platform

New York –  Dish Network is set to launch a program that will extend a bridge to the innovative,  yet  fragmented, market of second screen applications and services that help viewers discover video content or become more engaged with what they’re watching on TV.

As the first step of that process, the company will open up the application programming interfaces (APIs) for Dish Explorer, a tablet application launched in January for the satellite TV giant’s Hopper HD-DVR lineup that serves as a fancy remote control and bakes in a recommendation and social networking features.

Dish will open the APIs for Dish Explorer on July 15, Vivek Khemka, the company’s senior vice president of product management, announced here Thursday at the 2nd Screen Summit.

A key goal of the program, Khemka said, is to consolidate some of the fragmentation occurring in the second-screen TV app market, which is comprised of myriad recommendation engines, reward-based TV “check-in” services, and components that connect with various social networks.  Although many of these apps are compelling, dedicated one-offs, Dish’s open API program will provide these apps with an important ingredient that many currently lack: control of the set-top box.

While Dish is opening up its platform, it won’t be the Wild West. Khemka said Dish will start off by working with “trusted parties” to ensure that the apps won’t compromise the security of customer data or the content or break Dish's box.

It’s also an acknowledgment that the nascent TV second screen community is developing valuable apps that Dish wants to take advantage of and won’t necessarily be able to build on its own. “Someone in the audience can build a better app than we can,” Khemka said.

Dish released the Explorer App for the iPad on January 7. Working in conjunction with the original Dish Hopper whole-home DVR and the newer Sling-loaded version,  Explorer lets users navigate the channel lineup, manage their DVRs, select and initiate VOD streams, and get recommendations using data tabulated from Twitter and Facebook. 

Dish is also using Explorer as a way to experiment with a wide range of apps. If they’re successful, Dish also has the option of porting them to the set-top or its TV Everywhere application. “Explorer is kind of our test bed,” Rob Sadler, Dish product manager, told Multichannel News.

Among the third party apps already integrated with Dish Explorer is Thuuz, a sports recommendation engine that uses trending metrics to predict the excitement level of games, keeping viewers apprised, for instance, if a no-hitter is in the works. If a game meets a certain threshold, the user receives an alert and the option to tune to the channel running the sporting event.

Sadler said Dish already has a “waiting list” of app developers the company would like to work with, and identified BuddyTV and Dijit among the kind of apps that Dish might look to in the area of content discovery.

Dish hasn’t detailed the business model for the approach, but he said Dish isn’t charging for the APIs and doesn’t anticipate striking revenue-share arrangements. However, Dish will run an app certification program.