CES Day Three: Dish Network, The Reigning HDTV Content King

My Visit With Dish (2) Dish Network’s six in one picture view broadcasting in MPEG 4

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.

My Visit With Dish Showtime’s interactive service on the Dish Network.

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.

Dish Network's ViP 622 DVR The Dish ViP 622 DVR

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 Visit With Dish (3) The ViP 622 DVR felt clunky to me with screen changes happening slowly in some cases.

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.”

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12 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Incorrect. you can record 2 HD shows at the same time. Since it only has 1 HD OTA tuner, you can only record 1 HD OTA channel but the second one can be HD via Satellite. The current 942 does it and so will the 622.

  2. Thomas Hawk says:

    I was told by the rep there at Dish that the unit had two tuners built in one, HD and one SD. Are you suggesting that the box also has a third OTA tuner built in? Or would this be something you’d do on your own on the side direct to your TV?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Here is the info on the 622 directly from the Dish press release:

    Also included in the ViP series is the ViP622(TM) DVR, the world’s first MPEG4 multi-room high definition and digital video recorder satellite TV receiver with the ability to view independent programs — one in high definition and one in standard definition programming — on two televisions at once. No other pay-TV company offers this innovative combination. It features a massive hard drive with a recording capacity of up to 25 hours of high-definition and up to 180 hours of standard-definition content.

    The cutting-edge ViP622 DVR also features reverse, fast-forward, and pause as well as a picture-in-picture feature on any TV and the ability to record Dolby Digital(R) when available. The ViP622 DVR will be available in the first quarter of 2006 for a one-time upgrade price of $299 for new lease customers, which includes a dish antenna and free standard professional installation (monthly DVR fee applies).

    The ViP622 DVR also features:

    — Digital/analog off-air tuner

    — Up to 9-day, Picture-In-Guide, Widescreen Electronic
    Program Guide (EPG)

    — High-Definition Resolutions: 480p, 720p, 1080i (480i is
    up-converted)

    — Records two programs simultaneously in high definition,
    but programs can be viewed in standard definition on other
    TVs in the home.
    The ViP622 DVR offers DISH Network’s convenience and features that customers have grown to depend on, including parental controls, electronic program guide, picture in guide and name-based recording.
    ———-
    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.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    Ahhh, very good. Thank you for the clarification on the hard drive and tuner issue. Turns out the rep at Dish may have given me slightly wrong info.

  5. Chris says:

    I talked to a dish rep that said the 622 was going to have a 320 gig hard drive, with 70 gigs(aprox) used for on-demand content. Which would leave 250 gigs for std. and HD content. Which would equate to 25hrs for hd, and/or 250hrs for std. content.

  6. Adam says:

    is the ota tuner HD

  7. Thomas says:

    Hi. I have a new Toshiba MCE 2005 laptop. I have it plugged into regular coax cable, but the quality is horrible. I would like to get an OTA HDTV tuner, but nearly everything I see is a PC card for a desktop. My question is this: Do you know of any OTA HDTV tuners for the cardbus PC card slot in a laptop? If no, do you reccommend any particular brand or model of USB HDTV tuner? Your input would be appreciated.

  8. John says:

    I don’t see the problem getting programming out of the 621/622 to an DVD. If there is an S-video out, then all you need do is connect it to any VCR (which would constitute the second receiver) and then run cables to the DVD burner. It would be SD, not HD, but still good quality.
    True?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi

    I have a satelite receiver which is connected with my television and I watched the channels on my television. Now I want to share my connection with another tv is that possible to sahre two tv by one receiver if not what is the solve for that???

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi:
    We have a problem here in the northwest that appears to be caused by being on the edge of the foot print of the satellite.
    Dish networks voom feed are so intermittent they are almost unwatchable. They drop out about every 20 minutes and lock up the system so you have to clear it to get it working again. You can quickly change the tuner when the problem starts and avoid the lockup, but the problem lasts for about one or two minutes before it returns the picture again. This is long enough to ruin any program you may have been watching.

    I have check with the local dealer and he said yes it is a problem throughout this area and “they are working on it” but they still charge ten dollars extra per month for the service that is unusable as it is right now. In the very least, they should not charge a fee until they fix the problem.

    Is there any hope for this problem to be fixed in the near future.

  11. animal99 says:

    HD on a laptop? I recently came across a product for a plug-in HD tuner card that resembles a (really small) MP3 player. Check it out on the FUSION web site, for some reason I haven’t seen it anywhere but abroad (I’m in the USA) – http://www.dvico.com/default_e.asp

  12. Anonymous says:

    Enough with the Miscrosoft media center whining. Nobody actually cares about this thing, so just let it go.