CES Day Three: Dish Network, The Reigning HDTV Content King
Well if their is one reigning pusher for your daily HDTV fix that stands out amongst the crowd it would have to be Dish Networks. Voom used to be the HDTV King but with their recent demise Dish has stepped in to take their place. In fact, quite literally. Dish Network has now actually bought the rights to Voom’s former HDTV channels and have added 15 of them to their existing HDTV lineup. All in right now today they have the following in high def: ESPN HD, ESPN2HD, HDNET, TNT, RushHD, World Sport, HDNET Movies, HBO HD, SHOHD, Monsters HD, World Cinema, Film Fest HD, FU (all martial arts action all the time), Discovery HD, Equator HD, Animania, GamePlay, Family Room, Dish Network Pay Per View, Gallery HD (Stunning imagery and stories fro the front lines of the art world), HDNews, RAVE, TreasureHD, Ultra HD, plus all four of the networks, Whew!
In addition, I was told that Dish would be adding more (possibly from Voom) HD channels in the future.
Like DirecTV, Dish is working at present on rolling out local network HD all over the U.S. Unlike DirecTV though they have not announced yet a partnership with Microsoft to begin offering their service through Vista Media Center later this year. This is a disappointment for me as with the strongest HD line up, more HD channels than DirecTV or any of the cable operators, Dish would seem to represent the best possible entertainment package. Not having a Media Center option though will force me not to consider them as a provider come this fall. Both reps from Dish and Microsoft did indicate to me however that they were talking. Hopefully we see an announcement from them shortly. Quite frankly it would be dumb if they didn’t as it would pretty much automatically preclude them as a service provider for a growing number of Media Center users.
Like DirecTV Dish is now broadcasting in MPEG 4. Like DirecTV they also have the six channel in one view. They also have various interactive type content and they showed me their interactive showtime screen where you can see all of the movies and shows Showtime is pitching, etc.
I did get a chance to play around with Dish’s ViP 622 DVR, their highest end receiver that they offer. The unit boasts a 250 gig hard drive, which is capable of recording 180 hours of standard definition and up to 25 hours of high def programming, and is capable of getting all of their HDTV content today. Unlike Dish’s other units there is no part of the 250 gig hard drive that is “reserved” for Dish’s predownloaded movies for video on demand.
Like the DirecTV TiVo box and DirecTV’s upcoming NDS HDTV DVR it is a closed box system and their is no way to get any content off of the box. It does have a USB port but this is not activated. Personally as much as I liked Dish’s expanded HDTV lineup I was a little disappointed with this box. The screen changes felt clunky and slow and not as elegant and smooth as my TiVo or Media Center. Also the unit only has two tuners, 1 HD tuner and 1 SD tuner. So while you can watch and record two different shows at the same time, they have to be in SD and HD — you can’t record and watch two different shows at the same time in high def. My DirecTV HDTV TiVo at present has 4 tuners (2 HD and 2 SD) and this is a much more comfortable arrangement which has results in virtually no recording conflicts.
My biggest hope for DISH is that they strike a deal with Microsoft in the upcoming months. This would be wise to do and if they did I very well could see myself switching to their service when I buy my Vista Media Center PC later this year.
Update: An anonymous commenter on my blog cites the press release in saying that by using an OTA tuner you *can* actually record two HDTV shows at once and that the hard drive is actually a 350 gig drive, not 250 gig, with 100 gigs reserved for Dish programming. This is different than what the rep told me at CES.
“It is a bit confusing, but what they are trying to say is that the 622 has 2 satellite tuners and 1 OTA tuner. But there are also 2 outputs, one for an HD TV and a second for SD TV, so that you can split those satellite tuners up between the 2 TV outputs or use both of them on 1 of the TVs. This is a feature that I have never used on my Dish receivers, but I guess it is pretty popular to drive 2 TVs off one receiver and share all of the DVR features. Also I read that the harddrive is actually 350GB and that around 100GB is reserved for Dish to push content onto. The USB port will be used for the PocketDish and the possible use of external USB harddrives to archive content.”