Hopper with Sling

Satellite television provider Dish Network unveiled its plans today to let subscribers start using the Dish TV service beyond the boundaries of their home.

Dish’s plan addresses one of the biggest complains people have about the often expensive traditional TV subscriptions: you can’t use it if you leave home. This is contrary to many of the much less costly services like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime, which allow its respective subscribers to access the entire streaming video services from a variety of mobile devices, smart TVs, and set-top boxes.

At last year’s CES event, the company tackled a different major complain about traditional pay TV subscription by allowing customers to skip over long-winded commercial breaks on all recorded programs via the Hopper feature on its DVR TV boxes. This year, the company is improving the Hopper box by partnering with Sling Media, a company that produces its own line of devices enabling consumers to live stream their cable TV service when away from home.

Much like the Slingbox 500, the Hopper with Sling will let Dish subscribers stream both live television channels and watch saved shows on their DVR. (Right now you can access the “TV Anywhere” feature via iOS devices and through the web, but I’m assuming support for Android devices will come in the near future.) The box has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth support, a remote control finder, and the fastest processor available from any satellite TV provider box, according to the company. As for storage, the Hopper with Sling contains a two-terabyte hard drive, which equals about 500 hours of HD video or 2,000 hours of standard definition video.

Another cool thing the box does is allow you to send shows recorded on your DVR to your iPad, which can be downloaded for offline viewing. The feature should come in handy for anyone who travels often, and doesn’t want the added expense of renting or buying a movie to download beforehand. And while not exactly new among TV service providers, Dish is also launching second-screen apps to help people discover new content on their smartphones and tablets.

Creating a consumer-friendly pay TV service

The push to make Dish a “TV anywhere” experience is part of the company’s strategy to be the only pay TV service that actually gives customers what they’re asking for, said Dish CEO and President Joseph Clayton at a press event today. I managed to catch the live stream of Dish’s presentation, which included several references by Clayton about this being “the year of the Kangaroo.”

Other cable providers are starting to come around to the idea that their subscribers want more for their money, but thus far, have been slow to offer anything remotely close to what Dish is doing with the Hopper Sling box. For instance, Time Warner Cable recently announced a new TWC TV app on Roku set-top boxes that essentially brings live TV channels to the streaming web, but doesn’t offer DVR playback or the ability to watch content anywhere. Even more backwards are cable providers like Comcast, who refuses to allow its customers to use services like HBO Go (except for on Xbox Live), even after authenticating that they pay for a HBO package as a Comcast subscriber.

Photo credit: Dish Network, CNET