Dish Rolls Out Controversial Sling-Hopper

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. -- Dish announced this morning that it’s rolling out the Sling-Hopper despite litigation by broadcast networks to enjoin it from deploying the device’s commercial-skipping capabilities. The new set-top, officially known as the “Hopper with Sling Whole-Home HD DVR,” was the subject of controversy at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, when CNET was reportedly suppressed by parent company CBS from naming the device a “Best of CES winner.” As a result, the Consumer Electronics Association split the sheet with CNET and declared the Sling-Hopper a Best of CES winner itself.

Dish said the new set-top, which combines the ad-skipping, time-shifting features of the Hopper with Sling Media’s place-shifting capability, will be rolled out with a multimillion-dollar national marketing campaign featuring Dish’s “Boston Guys.” As part of its “Only the Hopper” campaign, Dish is launching a series of television, radio, print and digital advertisements that follow the Boston Guys as they demonstrate the Sling-Hopper.

The Sling-Hopper features new built-in Sling capabilities and the new Dish Anywhere app, which allows subscribers to watch live and recorded content on Internet-connected tablets, smartphones and PCs at no additional charge. It also enables downloading recorded content to mobile devices for viewing without an Internet connection. Like the Hopper, introduced last March over the objection of broadcast networks, the Sling-Hopper can be programmed to automatically skip commercials in prime time on broadcast television networks. This AutoHop feature, combined with PrimeTime Anytime, enables recording of up to 500 hours of HD programming with the commercials scoured out. Broadcasters are suing Dish for copyright violaiton because they say removing commercials from the program stream fundamentally changes it. CBS in particular is suing to void its retransmission consent agreement with Dish.

Customers can also use the Sling feature to watch DVR recordings stored on Hopper’s hard drive, including major network shows recorded using Dish’s PrimeTime Anytime feature. New Dish subscribers taking the Top 200 or DishLatino Dos tiers get one Hopper, and three smaller Joey units for free, including installation. The subscription fees run $10 a month for the Hopper and $7 each for the Joeys, or about double what pay TV providers typicallyg get for set-top rental.

~ Deborah D. McAdams

“CBS Says Dish Concealed Hopper in Retrans Negotiations”
Dish failed to disclose its intention to launch a commercial-skipping option when it worked out retransmission consent with CBS, the broadcast network said in documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.