Is Dish Network’s Hopper System Affecting Consumer Expectations for Distributed Video?
Amidst all the brouhaha over its commercial-skipping capabilities—and all of the cheering over its ability to record all three hours of primetime programming on all four major networks every night—perhaps the most technologically disruptive aspect of Dish Network’s new Hopper Whole-Home HD DVR is getting comparatively little attention in the public discussion about the system.
And it’s hidden right there in the Hopper’s whole name. Granted, multi-room DVR systems aren’t exactly new, but unlike past implementations, Hopper doesn’t rely on lethargic file transfers, frustrating buffering times, or other such limitations. Video in one room is available in as many as six others, instantly, simultaneously, and—perhaps most importantly—reliably. Which isn’t to say that Hopper is alone in the market; there are multi-room DVR offerings available from DirecTV, Comcast Xfinity, U-verse, and FiOS, all of which work infinitely better than the multi-room DVRs of the past.
But the Hopper’s combination of recording innovations, storage capacity, and support for 1080p and 3D content (On Demand) all give it an arguable technological edge over the competition. And its lack of regional availability restrictions, combined with its massive marketing budget, means that the Hopper has the potential to introduce far more consumers to the joys of near-instantaneous distributed AV—and not streaming internet-based video, mind you, but better-than-broadcast-quality picture and sound, zipping from room to room, with the ability to easily multicast, or pause recorded and live TV or On Demand events in one room, walk to another, and instantly resume from where you left off.
All of this exposure to what is likely a whole new way of experiencing video content throughout the house could be both a blessing and a curse for custom installers, once the Hopper enters the homes of more and more consumers. A blessing in that it raises all sorts of questions, like, ‘Why can’t I do this with my DVDs and Blu-ray discs?” A curse in that the answer is, “You can! Here’s how much it costs.”
Even when faced with that sticker shock, though, it’s an opportunity for installers to start meaningful and informative conversations with customers about all of the ways that Hopper isn’t really representative of the way that distributed A/V works with other sources. For one, it’s merely redistributing video that’s, by its nature, already distributed (via satellite). For another, it doesn’t rely on complicated and expensive HDMI video matrices to work, the way distributing, say, a Blu-ray signal does. But perhaps most importantly, not only its hardware, but also the research and development that went into it, are all subsidized by subscription fees.
So, at the very least, the Hopper system’s multiroom capability is a conversation starter. Is it destined to change perceptions about distributed A/V, though? Only time will tell. If you’re a Hopper customer, though, has it changed your expectations for the way you interact with your video entertainment? And if you’re an integrator, have you noticed more awareness about distributed A/V lately?
Or is this all too little too late as the entertainment market increasingly transitions to an era of highly compressed, pick-and-choose video via the internet?
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