LAS VEGAS —
Colorful longtime industry veteran Joe Clayton is marking his return to International CES as the CEO of Dish Network by introducing a pair of marsupial-inspired set-top boxes called the Hopper and its mini sidekick the Joey.
The new multi-room home-networking tools are central to the subscriber-challenged satellite TV service’s new marketing push and promise to, among other things, allow subscribers to record and cache all of the prime time programs from local CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX affiliates each night between 8 and 11 p.m. and hold them for up to eight days. That way, viewers will rarely miss a favorite major network program again, Clayton said.
Dish has named the automatic network recording capability Primetime Anytime, and will use it as part of a massive advertising campaign Clayton has planned to grab eyeballs away from DirecTV, cable and telco TV competitors.
The Hopper, which uses a kangaroo as its trademark, is a DVR and household server on steroids. It contains 2TB of internal storage capacity, three tuners, the ability to record up to six programs at a time, and can relay programs from the Hopper’s hard drive and tuners to up to three remote rooms in the house.
Viewers, in effect, gain the ability to “hop from room to room” viewing the same program on different TVs.
“We want people demanding a Hopper,” Clayton said. “It’s fun, it’s entertainment, it’s emotional and it’s different from what everybody else has.”
It’s smaller partner, the Joey (as in a baby kangaroo), is actually a thin-client box that is tethered via a MoCA coaxial cable system to the Hopper to share live and recorded TV programs in up to three additional rooms.
The system will incorporate a new interactive program guide that features a more ergonomic look and feel, and provides access to programs recorded on the Primetime Anytime service.
In addition to launching the Hopper here, Clayton is also polishing up the Dish façade by dropping “Network” from the brand name – it’s just Dish now on the marketing side – introducing a new logo and amping up a commercial advertising blitz to appeal to families.
“The new Dish is about fun and family entertainment,” Clayton said. “It’s not about model numbers or set-top boxes. Each member of the family can be entertained together or with different programming playing at the same time.”
Clayton will be appealing to potential subscribers with the pitch: “more music, more magic, more memory, more movies.”
On the music end, Clayton is leveraging his past role as CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio to enhance and expand SiriusXM music channels available on the Dish TV platform.
“We believe music is under served by cable TV and DirecTV,” Clayton contended. “Today, we offer in our higher-end packages up to 65 channels of SiriusXM commercial-free music. We are going to expand that virtually across our entire platform and move it from channel 6000, where it is hidden, down to channel 99, and when you hit 99 and then hit 61, you’ll see SiriusXM Blue Grass come up and play, along with a picture of the cover of the album the song comes from.”
Clayton said in addition to existing SiriusXM channels, Dish plans to add a couple of additional music services, hinting that “the Latino market is a growth market in an otherwise saturated pay-TV field, so we will be adding 15 channels to appeal to that audience.”
Dish will launch the Hopper and Joey with a promotional campaign, starting with Blockbuster At Home. The new effort will play off of the previous Blockbuser Movie Pass campaign offering additional family and children’s programming in the package.
Subscribers who sign up will receive three months of free DVD rentals by mail, more than 40 channels of HD programming, and more than 3,000 children’s and family titles added to the existing library of streaming Blockbuster on Demand movies, for a total of more than 8,000 movies and television programs.
For those without broadband service, Dish will offer a program called Blockbuster Unplugged, which will download via satellite more than 500 movies at a rate of 10 a day.
Dish will also offer a program this spring for existing Dish subscribers who do not have a DVR-equipped tuner decoder. This will provide an external hard drive that will plug into legacy equipment to deliver DVR functionality to a standalone tuner box.
To engage consumers curious about Dish service, Clayton’s team has developed a 72-hour sampling service of the most popular movies and TV shows, called Dish Test Drive. This will use a downloaded app and cloud service to provide live broadcast TV channels.
“You sign up online and we will provide Dish service to your phone, tablet or portable PC to try out,” Clayton said. “We believe people will get hooked on the service, plus it is a lead generator for us.”
Dish will play up the various promotions with a new advertising campaign leveraging national TV spots to talk about new products and features. The ads will center on Dish delivering more variety, more innovation and more value.
Dish plans to tie the spots into its online efforts by launching a redesigned website, Clayton said.