DISH CEO OPPOSES COMCAST/TWC MERGER

Charlie Ergen has never been the kind to mince words. In meetings last week with commissioners, bureau chiefs, and other staff of the Federal Communications Commission, the CEO of Dish Network was characteristically blunt. He told the FCC that it should overrule the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, stating that the deal presents “serious competitive concerns”.

Comcast and TWC have argued that combining their operations  will make it easier for them to compete effectively with Dish and with other Pay TV and internet providers with  national presence. The two companies currently operate in different cities, with very little overlap in their video markets. Since they seldom compete against each other now, Comcast has argued before Congress and the FCC that the proposed merger couldn’t possibly reduce competition. Ergen dismisses this argument, saying “there do not appear to be any conditions that would remedy the harms that would result from the merger”. The combined company, he said, would enjoy far too much leverage over “the lifeblood of over-the-top video”-  high-capacity broadband infrastructure.

Ergen said that Comcast/TWC would be able to exert excessive pressure on three “choke points” in the video service market. He said that these choke points are “the last mile public internet channel to the consumer, the interconnection point, and any managed or specialized service channels, which can act as high-speed lanes and squeeze the capacity of the public internet portion of the pipe”.

What could the combined company do with this leverage? Ergen said, “It will be able to extract lower prices from programmers, which in turn will force programmers to extract even higher rates from smaller pay TV providers like Dish in order to compensate programmers for lost revenue. And a combined Comcast/TWC will have the incentive and the ability to restrict programmers’ ability to grant digital rights to competing pay TV and OTT video providers. Each choke point provides the ability for the combined company to foreclose the video offerings of its competitors.”

Ergen also asked the FCC to deny approval for the AT&T/DirecTV merger, saying that those two companies “will be able to combine their marketing power to leverage programming content, to the potential detriment of consumers”.

Comcast responded to Ergen’s remarks, saying “as our filings show, every market we operate is is highly competitive. Dish has long been one of our most vigorous competitors, and unlike us has a national footprint available in tens of millions more homes than a combined Comcast/Time Warner Cable. Dish not wanting stronger competitors isn’t surprising and isn’t new.”

Under the terms of the proposed Comcast/TWC, the combined company would have about 30 million subscribers, about 50% more than DirecTV’s 20 million, and and more than twice Dish Network’s 14 million.

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THE ROBOT REPORTER

We’ve often said, jokingly, that Chris Matthews is a robot. Now we have a tantalizing hint that we may not have been far from the truth.

On Wednesday, July 2, the Associated Press announced that it will soon begin using robots to write articles about business. This will increase its output dramatically. The AP estimates that its automated news program can generate 4400 stories in the time it takes human writers to produce 300. The AP insists that automating journalism will not lead to staff cuts. It says that the measure will free its writers for other tasks, and will enhance its commitment to business coverage.

This isn’t the first time a news organization has used robot writers. For several years, Forbes magazine has used algorithms developed by Narrative Science to research and write about stocks that have been increasing in value. The Los Angeles Times uses robots developed by one of its own employees to write and publish time-sensitive articles about homicides and earthquakes in Southern California. The New York Times automates the writing of some of its wedding announcements.

So far, robot reporters seem to be most useful for covering sports and finance. Most stories on these subjects require gathering numbers from a database and integrating them into a few standard forms. The automated writers have the advantage of being able to process massive amounts of data that few humans, if any, could match. The challenge lies in presenting the information in forms that humans will be interested in reading. In this, though, the automated programs are catching up. Christer Clerwall, an information technology researcher at Karlstad University in Sweden, surveyed a group of people who read Los Angeles Times articles, one by a robot and one by a human, about a football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. The group had difficulty telling the difference. It rated the human writer barely ahead of the robot for being interesting and well-written, and rated the robot more accurate, informative, objective, and trustworthy.

Japanese researchers have taken the idea of automated journalism in a different direction: robot TV anchors. This is a twist on an existing program: robot museum guides. The guides have silicon skin and artificial muscles. They can move their lips in sync with a voiceover, move their heads, blink their eyes, twitch their brows, and move their hands. They can repeat any text programmed for them, without stumbling, and the pitch and timbre of their voices can be adjusted almost infinitely.

The robotic handwriting is on the virtual wall. Your humble correspondent, after studying this subject and realizing what it could portend for his own future, began hugging himself and whimpering, “Mommy! Mommy!”

This article was written by the central processing unit of the HAL 9000 publishing device. All must prepare to serve the machine. Resistance is futile.

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CABLEVISION’S SUIT AGAINST VIACOM GOES TO COURT

In a case with far-reaching implications for the future of the cable and satellite TV industries, Cablevision sued Viacom last February over its practice of requiring carriage of its unpopular channels as a condition for permission to carry its more popular ones. The plaintiff argued that this practice is a violation of antitrust law. The cable company objected to being required to carry more than a dozen channels, including Logo, Palladia, MTV Hits, and VH-1 Classics, as a condition for the right to carry Viacom’s four most popular networks. Cablevision said that Viacom imposes financial penalties for refusal to abide by this condition.

On Friday, June 20, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain denied Viacom’s motion to dismiss the case, clearing the way for it to go to trial.

Viacom, a spinoff of the CBS Corporation, is the world’s fourth largest media corporation. Viacom owns BET Networks, MTV Networks, Paramount Pictures, and about 170 networks with 700 million subscribers worldwide. Its more popular channels include Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land, Nickelodeon, BET, and MTV.

Viacom has said that Cablevision’s suit is simply an attempt to renege on a long-term agreement. Viacom also accuses the cable company of taking a position inconsistent with its positions in other court cases.

If Cablevision wins, cable and satellite TV companies may be able to reduce programming fees for consumers, since they won’t have to include large tiers of unpopular channels. Broadcasters dispute this, though. They argue that in selling their channels in large bundles, they are able to reduce fees, because the unpopular channels provide more advertising vehicles. The broadcasters also claim that the pay TV providers are just trying to shift the blame for rate increases stemming from their own management decisions.

 

 

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CULTURE, CHRONOLOGY, AND CONTEMPT IN CONTEMPORARY TV

Showtime has announced that it would air Penny Dreadful for another season. This gives me a chance to air one of my pet peeves about modern TV and movies, a peeve that this series aggravates often.

For those who are not familiar with it, Penny Dreadful is a Gothic horror series revolving around an attempt to rescue a young women who has been kidnapped by vampires or demons. Eva Green plays Vanessa Ives, a reserved and enigmatic aristocrat. Timothy Dalton plays Dr. Malcolm Murray, a former African explorer, and the father of the kidnap victim. Josh Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler, a brash young American familiar with weapons and at ease with violence, who is hired by Ms. Ives and Dr. Murray to help with the rescue attempt. Harry Treadaway plays Victor Frankenstein. In this series, he is an unofficial coroner.

Anyway, I have a certain peeve about contemporary TV and movies. Screenwriters and producers, for all of their gifts, are often limited by failure of imagination in their most critical task: character development. More often than not, they casually and thoughtlessly assume that all decent and reasonable people of every tribe, every nation, and every era shared the attitudes and obsessions of the young and the hip in modern America. Penny Dreadful is a case in point. The brains behind it obviously went to enormous effort and expense to reproduce the look and sound of London in 1891. In meticulously depicting the tools, the architecture, the furniture, the sanitation,  the transportation, the dress, and the patterns of speech characteristic of the period, they almost succeed in immersing the viewer in the lives of English aristocrats of the Victorian era. Almost. They defeat the attempt, though, by investing their characters with the minds of university coeds in twenty-first century Los Angeles.

For example, Ethan Chandler, after witnessing the supernatural element in the case he is helping to investigate, says, “What the f___ is this?” to Ms. Ives and Dr. Murray. They barely react. At that time nobody, not even the crudest, would have used “f___” in this way. “Damn” and “hell” were the strongest words anyone would have used then, and the intended audience would not reacted so mildly. A refined Victorian lady, even one as pragmatic and imperturbable as Vanessa Ives, would probably have reprimanded the offender. At the very least, she would have given him a cold stare for his effrontery, and a gentleman such as Dr, Murray would likely have challenged him to a duel.

All of the main characters exhibit a disturbing moral nihilism, one entirely out of keeping with the times. They are untroubled even by prospect of becoming murderers. For example, when Mr. Chandler asks Ms. Ives if the “night work” she is offering him will require murder, she replies, “Does it matter?” He shrugs off her response, apparently not thinking it unreasonable. Likewise, Dr. Murray replies “Does it matter?” when  Frankenstein asks him, “How much of the world will have to be murdered to achieve this end?”, the end being the rescue of Murray’s captive daughter. Frankenstein also accepts this response. Small pockets of such extreme depravity might have existed here and there among the upper classes in Victorian England, and its not implausible that two such nihilists as Ives and Murray would be in the same social circle. It’s highly unlikely, though, that they would be so open about it with people they barely knew. And their interlocutors would not shrug off the suggestion that murder doesn’t matter. Even if as jaded and as morally vacant as their employers, Chandler and Frankenstein would want to know about murder, simply because it would increase the risk of the enterprise.

Perhaps I am quibbling. Penny Dreadful is a TV series, not a philosophy class, and maybe it isn’t necessary to think deeply about it. Its jarring anachronisms may not matter much to most viewers, and the series is strong enough in most respects to be consistently entertaining. Still, it would be refreshing if Hollywood began taking the eras they depict on their own terms. Allowing Victorian characters to speak for themselves, instead of for the screenwriters, might be the difference between an adequate TV series and a great one.

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WOULD YOU SPEND $1.7 MILLION FOR A TV SET?

You think your 71 inch TV set is impressive. Hah! You don’t even approach having the biggest one available. Titan, a British electronics manufacturer, announced last Wednesday that it has produced the largest and most expensive TV set ever built: a 370 inch (diagonal) monster that will sell for a million pounds- about $1.7 million in U.S. currency. Called the Zeus model, the beast weighs almost a ton, and it displays 65 billion colors. Titan says that the unit is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, which may mean that it is waterproof. If so, it won’t be the first. The company has already built several large-screen TV sets designed to be partially submerged in swimming pools.

To give you a better idea of the set’s dimensions, it measures almost 31 feet diagonally, more than 26 feet horizontally, and almost 17 feet vertically.

Even if you have $1.7 million to spare, you may have to move quickly to obtain your 370 inch TV set. Titan is committed to building only four Zeus model sets, and it has already sold two. One will be installed atop a hotel in Cannes, on the French Riviera, and the other will go to the home of “a British media millionaire”.  The other two will be built to order after Titan has confirmed customer interest- presumably via a deposit of $200,000 to $300,000. If demand is sufficient, the company may build more than four Zeus units.

The purchase price does not include delivery or installation, so if $1.7 million is all you have, then you’re out of luck.

This breaks your heart, doesn’t it?

 

 

 

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DISH NETWORK ACCEPTS BITCOIN

 

Last Thursday, Dish Network announced that it would accept payment in Bitcoin, the ‘crypto-currency’ established as open-source software in 2009. Bitcoins are produced as rewards for users who offer their computer processing power to process and record payjments into a public ledger, this ‘mining’ work usually handled on servers dedicated to this purpose. Bitcoins are not controlled by any central bank of government authority, which has led federal authorities to call it a decentralized virtual currency. Bitcoins can be exchanged for goods, services, and government fiat currency.

The crypto-currency, launched in 2009, has become popular in some quarters because of widespread distrust of government-issued currencies. U.S. Government spending levels, and the Federal Reserve Board’s practice of “quantitative easing”- buying its own securities when they fail to sell on the open market, have fed investor fears of debasement of the dollar, and consequent price inflation. With governments often proving unreliable in fiscal matters, alternative media of exchange become increasingly appealing.

Several established firms already accept Bitcoin. They include Overstock.com, a discount merchandise reseller; Virgin Galactic, a commercial airline, TigerDirect, an online electronics retailer; and Zynga, a developer of social media games such as Farmville, YoVille, and Bubble Safari. So, far, though, Dish Network is the largest firm to accept Bitcoin.

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WHAT DO PAY TV MERGERS MEAN FOR SUBSCRIBERS?

 

 

As you may have heard, Comcast announced in February that it agreed to buy Time Warner Cable. Largely in response to this move, AT&T announced two weeks ago that it would buy DirecTV, the largest satellite TV provider in America with 20 million subscribers. Dish Network is the second largest, with 14 million. The Comcast/TWC merger would create the largest pay TV company in the U.S., with 30 million subscriptions.

These mergers could be reversed because of antitrust concerns by the Federal Communications Commission or the Justice Department. Assuming that the Feds approve these deals, how will they affect their subscribers?

Comcast says that its merger with TWC will mean lower prices for its TV programming, since the combined company will have more leverage in negotiating retransmission agreements with content providers such as the major broadcast networks, and that the deal will bring wider availability of broadband internet service to its markets. Competitors have scoffed at these arguments. The critics say that the merger is likely to reduce service and increase prices, because it will reduce competition. Comcast and TWC replied to this objection by pointing out that the two companies don’t compete in the same markets now, so the combination couldn’t possibly reduce competition.

Similar arguments have surrounded AT&T’s proposed buyout of DirecTV. AT&T also sees the merger as an opportunity to expand its broadband service into rural areas, where DirecTV already has a strong presence. DirecTV doesn’t offer a competitive broadband service now, and hopes the merger will enable it to offer a full slate of bundled services, as most cable companies already do.  In addition, DirecTV has contracts with content providers that could help expand AT&T’s program packages. Of its exclusive programming contracts, the Sunday NFL Ticket is the crown jewel.

In my view, these mergers are unlikely to affect consumer prices or service availability much- for better or for worse. Other industry trends are likely to have much greater influence on the pay TV or broadband subscriber’s experience. Internet streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are likely to attract huge numbers of younger viewers, who are more likely to watch on mobile devices than on home TV sets. Most major pay TV provider have already begun to adapt their technologies, third-party contracts, and program lineups to capture this market. For example, Dish Network’s Hopper-Joey system with Sling enables a viewer to transfer content to a smart phone, tablet, or other mobile device. Dish also announced two months ago that it has enough signed contracts with third party internet streaming services to launch its own over-the-top (OTT) TV service by the end of 2014. The service would not require the viewer to have the traditional satellite dish and receivers.

The consolidation of the broadband market, in my view, will affect price, availability or speed of service less than recent technological advances would. Several companies have tested forms of internet architecture that don’t require the expensive transmission towers and stringing of cable that are common to the industry now. Until now, high capital expense has restricted the broadband market, creating effective monopolies. The new internet architectures are likely to disrupt these monopolies and open metropolitan markets to multiple broadband providers, and consumers are likely to benefit from reduced prices, more secure networks, and far higher speed.

Consolidation in the pay TV industry seems to be more of a defensive measure than an aggressive marketing strategy- an attempt to stem erosion of existing customer bases. For long term success, pay TV providers would be wise to concentrate on improving service and technology. Buyouts and mergers are not effective substitutes.

 

 

 

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PENNY DREADFUL

For the last three weeks, I’ve been unable to escape the internet ads about Penny Dreadful, Showtime’s Gothic horror series set in Victorian London. You may have seen the ads. Most of them feature Eva Green, the star of the series, wearing a black dress, a necklace of scorpions, and an expression of grim determination.

The series takes its name from the ‘penny dreadfuls’, cheap and lurid serial fiction books marketed to adolescents in the nineteenth century. Eva Green plays Vanessa Ives, a coolly enigmatic and nearly imperturbable aristocrat. Josh Hartnett plays Ethan Chandler, a charming and cocky young man, a skilled marksman familiar with violence.. Timothy Dalton plays Sir Malcolm Murray, an African explorer on a quest to find his kidnapped daughter. Harry Treadaway plays Victor Frankenstein.

I decided to break my long-established rule of waiting to evaluate a new series until after the hype about it has died away. This one seemed interesting, even though I haven’t been a big fan of the horror genre, including the Gothic versions. The promotional materials and the initial reviews seemed to indicate that this would be different from almost any other horror show we’ve seen: light on the often-overused CGI and special effects, with more emphasis on story, setting, and character development.

The opening episode, Night Work, wasted no time in establishing the show’s theme.  An impoverished young women, sleeping next to her daughter in her tenement flat, gets up to answer a call of nature. Something breaks the window behind her and seizes her, leaving behind a trail of blood. In the next scene, Vanessa Ives prays in front of a crucifix. A large spider runs across the crucifix, down the wall, across the floor, up her dress, and onto her right hand. (The producers of this series evidently want to hammer the point home, in case anyone’s inclined to forget it, that this is a horror show. They’re not interested in subtlety.) Our heroine goes into convulsions. Is this a fit? Is it spirit possession?

Having established the horror theme,  the producers introduce the protagonists. The woman we saw praying is now watching a Wild West show. Impressed with the way its star, Ethan Chandler, handles firearms, she approaches him after the show to offer him ‘night work’. He accepts, and she introduces him to Sir Malcolm Murray, who is seeking his kidnapped daughter Mina. The three of them go into an underground tunnel looking for Mina. They are attacked by several vicious vampires. After fending off the vampires and killing several of them, they recover the body of one, and they ask Victor Frankenstein to examine it. His autopsy reveals Egyptian hieroglyphics etched beneath its skin. Ethan, leery of the occult world, accepts payment from Vanessa and Malcolm, and he withdraws from the project, but is plagued with second thoughts. Frankenstein brings a body to life in his laboratory.

********************************************************************************

From what I’ve seen in the first episode, Penny Dreadful is better than most Gothic horror. The settings are lovingly detailed, the opulent homes and social clubs of the wealthy contrasting sharply with the squalid and battered dwellings of the poor. The main characters are believable, and the acting is generally good. Eva Green, in particular, is perfect in a role that requires subtlety and range.

The show is marred by some glaring anachronisms, chiefly in the attitudes and the language of some of the characters, and the horror symbolism and foreshadowing are a bit heavy-handed. In the first episode, we see spiders, scorpions, rats, vampires,  dismembered corpses, and signs of demon possession.

The writers of this series seem a bit lazy and insufficiently imaginative; apparently believing this story needs every theme and every monster in classic horror novels. I can’t think of much they’ve left out. In the first episode, we meet two of the characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, several vampires, even Dr. Frankenstein and the man he brought to life. In the second episode, we will also encounter Dorian Gray, the Oscar Wilde character who lived in wild debauchery and sold his soul so his portrait would age, but he would not.  With this kind of start, I won’t be surprised if the Dr. Jekyll and the Wolfman show up.

From what I’ve seen so far, I would give Penny Dreadful a B- or a C+:  A for setting and cinematography, B+ for acting, and C- for story. If subsequent episodes ditch the cliched symbolism and the stock horror situations, they will earn a higher grade.

Editor’s Note: Penny Dreadful airs on Showtime East (DISH channel 318) on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. CST.

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BURN NOTICE

I often make it a point to watch some of the more heavily hyped movies and TV shows long after their initial release. Doing so makes it easier to see their faults and their merits objectively, without being being unduly influenced by the publicity surrounding them.

Last night, I watched an episode of Burn Notice on the Encore Action channel (343 on DISH). The series stars Jeffrey Donovan as Michael Westen, a down-market James Bond. He is not as suave as Ian Fleming’s creation, is not nearly as well-dressed, and does not drive the exotic vehicles nor visit the exotic locales that were a big part of the appeal of the Bond franchise. This doesn’t make the series dull, though. Burn Notice has its own unique appeal, with a rough-and-tumble sensibility suited to the story of a spy facing a world of ever-shifting loyalties, where even the best people are morally compromised,  and our hero must commit serious crimes to prevent much worse atrocities.

The title of the series refers to the ‘burn notices’ issued by intelligence agencies to agents or informants who have become unreliable. A ‘burned’ agent is cut off from all contact with the agency, which then refuses to acknowledge having ever had any connection with him. Because his work history is erased and his support network is gone, he has no identity and no legal way to earn a living.

Westen, having been ‘burned’ after a blown mission in Nigeria, and having later been framed for a series of mass murders, is in Miami, his hometown. He is unable to leave. His assets are frozen, his former contacts are out of reach, and he is under tight surveillance by the FBI. After a long, exhausting, and dangerous effort to contact his CIA handler, he has learned only that someone in a powerful position wants him ‘on ice’. If he stays in Miami and maintains a low profile, he can keep some measure of freedom. If he leaves, or if he talks publicly about his predicament, he will be pursued relentlessly, and will face imprisonment or death.  He is unable, though,  to overcome obsession with who burned him, and for what purpose.  He works as an unlicensed private investigator to fund his probe into the matter.

The episode I watched last night began with Westen running from the local police. He gets into a brief shootout with them, causing an accident that causes a few minor injuries, and he has to steal a change of clothing from a parked car. This opening identifies him as a fugitive, and it reminds us that he cannot have a normal life. He calls Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a semi-retired undercover agent, and Westen’s last fragile and occasional contact with the official intelligence apparatus. Sam tells him what to do to avoid immediate danger.

Walking down a street on the way to investigate something at Sam’s request,  Westen sees a food cart explode a hundred yards ahead of him. A voiceover informs us that, “For an undercover agent, any coincidence should be taken as a sign that he is being followed.” Westen looks around to find his tail, and he sees his own image in some of the TV screens in an electronics store he has just walked past.  He enters the store with his gun drawn. He sees a body on the  floor near the rear wall, then sees Simon Escher walk out of a back room, his own gun pointed at Weston. Escher is the man who committed the crimes for which Westen was framed. Escher shows Westen a series of videos of said crimes, and says that he wants his own life history back. Westen says that he would be happy to give it up.  Escher says that it’s not that simple. He wants Westen to arrange a meeting with “Management” (John Mahoney), the head of a prominent black ops syndicate. To insure Westen’s cooperation, Escher shows him video of a bomb his team has planted in a large hotel, and he warns that thousands of people will die if Westen fails to arrange the meeting.

The rest of the episode is a race against time. Unsure he can count on Management’s cooperation, and knowing that Escher is dangerously unstable- even psychotic, Westen asks Sam, accompanied by Fiona Gienanne (Gabrielle Anwar), Westen’s sometime love interest,  to find the explosives expert Escher hired to plant the bomb.  Meanwhile, the FBI is putting pressure on Westen’s mother (Sharon Gless), to help them track him “for his own good”. Escher will not meet with Management unless Westen is present, and FBI pursuit could keep him away. Unless all of the pieces fall into place, the bomb will be detonated,  thousands of people will be killed, and Westen likely will be killed or arrested by the FBI or the Miami police.

*******************************************************************************

Based in this episode, I give Burn Notice an A-. It is one of the better action-adventure shows aired in recent years, though not without flaw. The plot moves at breakneck speed, and the dialogue is believable, without the excessive macho posturing and the sophomoric one-liners that too often mar the genre. The plot is convoluted, but not implausibly so, though character motivations sometimes seem slightly weak.  The series would be stronger if we knew what foreign interests the villains are working for.

Jeffrey Donovan is a limited actor, his emotional range confined to pique and mild amusement, but for the role of Michael Westen he’s good enough. Bruce Campbell, in a smaller role, makes Sam Axe the most interesting regular character in the series. His superannuated frat boy demeanor enlivens every line he speaks.  Sharon Gless is heartbreakingly believable as Madeleine, Westen’s mother. Garret Dillahunt is perfect as the villain, convincingly communicating his charm, his twisted sense of humor, his ruthlessness, and his psychopathic excesses. Gabrielle Anwar, as Fiona, didn’t make much of an impression on me, but may prove more interesting in other episodes.

Burn Notice is extremely violent, and the dilemmas faced by its protagonist do not lend themselves to neat and simple moral lessons. Most viewers, in fact, will be a bit uneasy with some of the ethical compromises made by even the most virtuous characters. For these reasons, the series is unsuitable for small children. For others, Burn Notice provides diverting and fast-paced entertainment, and without the serial insults to viewer intelligence common in action-adventure shows.

Burn Notice is aired at 6:00 Central Time on Thursdays on Encore Action, channel 343 in the Dish Network lineup.

 

 

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DISH NETWORK RELEASES SUPER JOEY

The date is January 6, 2014. Vivek Khemka’s Google Glass buzzes. Picking it up, he reads, “The excitement rating for tonight’s College Football National Championship Game is 96.” He says to it, “record”, and a field on the big screen behind him acknowledges the order.

Khemka, Dish Network’s Vice President of Technical Development, is at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He is demonstrating the Super Joey, his company’s new slave unit for the Hopper, its advanced HD-DVR. The device has voice recognition software, and company executives are proud of the fact that “it even understands southern accents”. Khemka tells it to find movies featuring Angelina Jolie. The Super Joey lists all of the movies featuring Jolie, and it asks Khemka if he wants to record one. He tells the audience that he’s not fond of Jolie movies in which Brad Pitt shows up. He tells the device, “Drop Brad Pitt”, and it narrows the list to Jolie movies without him. Khemka says to the audience, “For the new search, the Super Joey retains the context of the previous search.”

Khemka says that the Super Joey adds two new tuners to the Hopper-Joey platform. With this addition, the viewer can record up to eight programs at the same time, including the four major broadcast networks, and four more channels of the viewer’s choice.

There is more, he says. In upgrading the Hopper-Joey platform, Dish Network has arranged partnerships with  Control 4, Buddy TV, Thuuz, and Southwest Airlines, among other firms. Control 4, a home automation company, will have its software incorporated into the Hopper, so the one device can control all of the home’s smart appliances. Buddy TV is an entertainment website. It publishes actor biographies, movie and TV show reviews, celebrity photos. personality quizzes, episode videos, slideshows, and user forums; and it will incorporate these into the Hopper-Joey platform.  Thuuz alerts its subscribers to major sporting events, tracks where they can be watched, and can be integrated into the viewer’s fantasy leagues, making it easier for him to follow all relevant games and monitor his standings. Southwest Airlines has agreed to provide Hopper-connected iPads to its passengers on certain flights. Southwest wants to improve the entertainment options for its passengers, and Dish Network hopes that travelers, having experienced the Hopper, will want it for their homes.

Later on, Dave Schull takes the stage. He is Dish’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. He brags that his company has more than met its affordability objective, with the two-year consumer cost of the Hopper-Joey system being 30% to 45% lower than DirecTV or TiVO systems with similar capabilities. He says that the company’s second major objective is mobility. The company wants its Dish Anywhere application to make the Hopper the entertainment hub for the entire house, transferring its content to iPhones, iPads, Android tablets, game consoles, Kindle Paperwhites, and later to smart watches. Schull says that his third major objective is ease of use. Acknowledging that some viewers can be overwhelmed by the variety of available programming, he says that his company seeks to make its products easier to use with voice recognition, on-screen guides, and on-screen hints based on the viewer’s previous selections.

Editor’s note: the first Super Joey units available to consumers reached the market in mid-April. 

 

 

 

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