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Dish Goes 4K, Adds Music Apps

LAS VEGAS – Dish is bringing out “a troop” of new Joey thin-client systems to International CES to further address the company’s ongoing mission of giving its customers what they want: in this case, greater ease of use.

Dish is bringing the home satellite paradigm to new heights in 2015, introducing its first 4K Ultra HD TV products and services, and developing a multichannel over-the-top streaming TV network for a new class of subscribers.

At a press event, Dish CEO Joseph Clayton revealed the new directions, saying, “We feel we have our most impressive product lineup to date, and with a market leadership in 4K, and our dedication to our new OTT service, we our giving our customers the power to ‘Take Back TV,’ ” (which is the company’s marketing theme for its OTT service).

Roger Lynch, Dish advanced technologies executive VP, said Dish opted to introduce the new OTT service targeting the growing market of U.S. residents who have not elected to take a pay-TV package. This is comprised mostly of millennials, who have adapted to a different way of consuming content and want less-expensive alternatives to conventional subscription platforms.

The new Dish OTT service emerged from a similar platform the company has run for international subscribers, Lynch explained, offering streamed channels of multiple-language programming. That offering proved so successful that the company decided to adopt the approach to reach this new group that would welcome an inexpensive, tailored package of the most popular live channels for their preferences, with VOD options, mobile viewing capability and does not require credit checks or service contracts.

Lynch said the No. 1 live cable channels for the market was the ESPN family of stations, so Dish worked out a carriage arrangement for Disney/ABC/ESPN channels, in addition to TNT, Food Network, HGTV, TBS and Cartoon Network.

In addition, the service will mix in “some of the best Internet-delivered content,” which Lynch said will be announced later.

The service charges $20 per month, and offers a consistent user interface across a variety of smart-TV devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Nexus Player, Roku 3, Roku Streaming Stick, Roku LT, Xbox One, Mac computers and PCs.

Dish also plans the service app for a number of smart TVs.

In addition, mobile users can access the OTT service on supported versions of iOS and Android devices.

As for Dish’s 4K UHD plans, Vivek Khemka, Dish product management senior VP, said the company has determined that with lower set pricing, greater 4K content availability and improved consumer awareness, the market is now ready for a native 4K satellite TV offering.

Dish will supply 4K UHD programming through a new 4K Joey box that a customer can add by swapping out any standard Joey connected to a 4K UHD TV that supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 today.

The 4K Joey is slimmer than current Joey boxes, so it can be placed on a console or mounted on a wall. The box supports HEVC and 4K playback at up to 60 fps and offers full 10-bit color resolution. A dual-core ARM processor speeds up device operation; Bluetooth audio playback links to wireless headphones; and a picture-in-picture function is added.

Dish will make the 4K Joey available in early summer at a comparable cost to current Joey boxes.

Dish will launch with 4K VOD content, encoded in HEVC, and titles will be automatically cached to the connected Hopper hard disc drive. Dish was not ready to announce pricing for 4K programming.

Khemka said the platform is capable of support live 4K programming, in the event that such programming is available in the future.

Dish is also announcing its first online third-party streaming music video partner and app on the Hopper from Vevo, allowing customers to find, watch and listen to music by artists, by genre, by title and create their own playlists, without the need of any additional equipment or even the need to switch inputs.

Dish also announced a Dish Music App available to iOS and Android platforms and on the Hopper, to select music from the iHeartRadio, Pandora or TuneIn services, and play it back to any room in the house.

The app automatically detects the number or rooms and zones and will allow sending music to each independently or synchronized together and to control the volume. More streaming music services are expected to be added over time.

“If you think of Sonos for the masses, this is what the Dish Music App can deliver,” Khemka said. “And it will be available to customers at no additional cost.”

Also planned is an app from Live that will allow importing personal photos from PCs, Macs and smartphones onto the Hopper.

Dish is also adding a new remote control for the Hopper called the Hopper Voice Controller and a new “Carbon” user interface. The remote is size of an iPhone 5s, with a central touchpad supporting touch and swipe navigation in addition to voice commands. Universal remote functions are included and two AA batteries will supply power from four to six months. Pricing will be “very affordable,” the company said.

The Carbon Interface was designed to make it easier to see and find settings and personal content. Users will also be able to go the homescreen to find programs predicted to be most relevant to the user’s preferences that day.