Archives For Satellite TV

dish-auto-hop

DISH Network continues to tempt fate (and the studio empire) given the introduction of automatic commercial skipping via their Hopper DVR and Joey extenders. If you recall, this new and highly regarded whole home solution features “Primetime Anytime” which records local prime time television programming (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) and retains this content 8 days. Those very same recordings, or perhaps a subset given the fine print, will now display the Hopper pink kangaroo icon a few hours after broadcast, indicating “Auto Hop” commercial skip is available.

DISH says Auto Hop is something we “consumers have been waiting for since the dawn of television.” Which isn’t entirely accurate… As we’ve only been waiting since Replay TV excised similar functionality (available on any channel/recording) under legal studio pressure. Will history repeat itself? Or, perhaps, DISH’s technical implementation and limited scope insulates them in some way. Regardless, it’s interesting to compare and contrast their customer-centric approach to the conflicted Comcast that just filed a patent application to inject onscreen advertising overlays when customers fast forward by commercials.

dish-hopper-apps

TiVo isn’t the only game in town when it comes to merging subscription television with Internet content via a set-top. And DISH Network is next in line to offer Pandora music streaming from their new Hopper, whole-home DVR. It’s the same Pandora you know and love – create or sign into an account and stream personalized “radio” stations. For now it’s just the Hopper hub with access, but Joey extender support is expected in June and DISH tells me they’re looking at possibly bringing tunes to the ViP 922. If you don’t have DISH, DirecTV and Verizon are other providers who offer Pandora. Which, I suppose, is less threatening to their business model than say Netflix access.

directv-tivo-hbo

Beginning last week, a subset of DirecTV subscribers may have experienced tighter HDMI output controls limiting their ability to view HBO via the television and connectivity options of their choice. The scope of the lockdown isn’t yet clear, but at least one HR20 owner and a THR22 (the new, old TiVo) have been negatively impacted by this change. Brent D. tells me there was zero proactive outreach and support informed him implementation was required by the studios by 4/12 and offered to send component cables to overcome his older Toshiba HDTV’s lack of High-bandwith Digital Content Protection (HDCP).

I reached out to both HBO and DirecTV for comment. HBO indicates their copy protection policies haven’t recently changed, while DirecTV’s rep confirms a HDCP requirement for premium channels when using HDMI connections and suggests customers with older TVs switch to component cables. I’d say this is anti-consumer and a misguided approach to reducing piracy as it’s much easier to archive video traveling via an analog component connection. Unless DirecTV or HBO’s ultimate intent is to provide lower resolution 540p video over component…

direct-hbo

What makes this move particularly offensive is, unlike Blu-ray’s analog sunset, DirecTV’s lockdown is occurring on deployed hardware – with no outreach, knowledge base articles (that I can find), and essentially breaking formerly working customer configurations. Impacted subscribers can give up HDMI for component clutter or buy new televisions. Nice?

Brent points out the irony:

It is frustrating to be caught unaware and then not be able to watch the HBO subscription that I pay for. I am beginning to have sympathy for content pirates, as there are so many barriers to me actually using the subscription that I pay for. Yes, the subscription that I pay for! I pay for it!

Is DirecTV Sabotaging TiVo?

Dave Zatz —  January 23, 2012

sabotage

On a few separate occasions over the last couple weeks, I’ve received both inquiries and accusations suggesting that DirecTV is  out to get TiVo… given their underwhelming new DirecTV TiVo DVR. From our writeup last month:

It’s everything we expected, but nothing we hoped for. The unit features TiVo’s original standard definition user interface, now branded as their “Classic” UI, running on outdated DirecTV hardware. So it’s neither the best TiVo experience, nor is it the best DirecTV DVR.

Christopher Price of PhoneNews cornered TiVo at CES and pitched us with the provocative theory that “DTV is sabotaging TiVo by making their boxes inferior to DTV.” From his write-up lamenting DirecTV’s lack of TiVoToGo:

Representatives for TiVo blamed DirecTV squarely for not offering the technology on their units. TiVo even went as far as to say that they had offered DirecTV a solution that would ensure copy protection requirements for DirecTV, but that the service provider still mandated that TiVo remove TiVoToGo from the new generation of DirecTV-enabled TiVo HD units.

While many agree that this new DirecTV TiVo DVR isn’t very compelling, I find Chris’ theory of sabotage highly unlikely – verging on the preposterous. First, DirecTV and TiVo are not competitors. Second, DirecTV will take a bath if the deal doesn’t work out as they bankrolled development of this product and “has obligations to nationally market [TiVo], and those obligations are substantial.”   Continue Reading…

dish-hopper

As anyone who follows the tech industry knows, the annual Consumer Electronics Show is nearly upon us. And, with it, bazillions of new product announcements. Some of which aren’t always revealed exactly as or when a vendor had intended… and such may be the case with DISH Network’s upcoming “Hopper” whole-home DVR solution that was supposedly covered by TWICE prematurely (and then yanked).

What I gather from the article and some Internet sleuthing is that EchoStar’s next generation XiP satellite whole home DVR hardware will be branded as the DISH Network “Hopper” (XiP 813) – along with the cute little kangaroo logos you see below. Further, the “extender” units will be Joeys (XiP 110). Given DISH’s inglorious historical product/box naming conventions, this is already a massive win as far as I’m concerned (and it beats TiVo’s Q and Preview, conceptually). The XiP, er Hopper, also features smaller, less angular set-top box hardware which had been my other major complaint with DISH units.

Of course, the goal of a whole-home DVR is to create a mostly centralized repository of recordings that can be streamed around the home… which the 2TB, 3 tuner Hopper and Joeys deliver. Along with live television. From the article, the system Continue Reading…

directv-tivo

When TiVo and DirecTV rekindled their relationship in 2008, we were pretty psyched. Because, back in the day, the companies represented a dream team of cutting edge television services — the best DVR mated with the best TV (Sunday Ticket). Unfortunately, at some point their relationship soured and existing (non-MPEG4) DirecTV TiVo units were merely allowed to remain active (although stagnant) via a reciprocal do-not-sue patent arrangement worked out in 2006 (with DirecTV picking up ReplayTV’s patent portfolio as leverage in 2007).

Yet, after a few years of delay, we’re finally here… And the new DirecTV TiVo DVR, originally scheduled for 2009, goes on sale tomorrow. It’s everything we expected, but nothing we hoped for. The unit features TiVo’s original standard definition user interface, now branded as their “Classic” UI, running on outdated DirecTV hardware. So it’s neither the best TiVo experience, nor is it the best DirecTV DVR.

directivo

Our readership generally expects cutting edge products, but we recognize there’s a broader market out there and suspect a subset of current DirecTV subscribers (and defectors) might find comfort in that classic TiVo experience (including the iconic peanut remote). While it may be functionally limited, the product could be highly usable and sufficient for many. In fact, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers is banking on it: Continue Reading…

roku-hbogo-channel-store

A day or so before HBO GO was released to Roku devices I was tipped off that DirecTV and Comcast wouldn’t offer this service. At the time, I didn’t recognize the implication… but it’s become all too clear. Comcast and DirecTV are willfully preventing access to HBO GO on Roku devices, even though that very same content is offered to their subscribers via mobile devices and web browser.

In corresponding with Roku and HBO, I’m pretty sure this is neither a technical issue nor a licensing issue. So it’s not clear to me why Comcast or DirecTV would deny Roku owners access? My initial thought was that it boils down to fear of an over-the-top future… yet Comcast is bringing Xfinity to the Xbox and, generally speaking, HBO has done right by their partners and only offers HBO GO to HBO cable/satellite subscribers. I asked Comcast to help me understand, but their prepared non-response doesn’t shed any light on the situation.

Every day we’re working to make XfinityTV programming available to our customers in more ways including the Xbox, connected TVs, on websites like XfinityTV and HBOGo, on tablets and other devices.  Today, all HBO content is available on XfinityTV.com and through the XfinityTV app for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.  We will continue to work with our partners to deliver even more choices to our customers in more places.

For now the mystery remains unsolved, with the impotent HBO and Roku encouraging customers to contact their respective providers if they’re not being served. And this marks another day that I’m pleased to be a Verizon FiOS TV customer.