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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dish DVR with Slingbox

Okay, so I wasn't in Las Vegas last week for the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) where all the latest and greatest gadgets got introduced. I was however watching the press releases though and saw some interesting things come out. For instance, I doubt anyone is really interested in four times the resolution TVs with 4K TV. What did surprise me the most was a little a incident with c|net.

If you're not familiar with CNET, it is a technology publication which does product reviews, big time, along with technology news and software downloads. They decided to nominate some products for best of CES, as one might expect from such a big time show. There were lots of press releases and most people can't read them all. The staff at CNET did. One of the products CNET liked was a product from Dish, the satellite TV folks.

Dish has a product out now called Hopper that is their version of a Tivo DVR, with a few extra features. It offers PrimeTime Any Time (PTAT), which records all the big networks' prime time shows and saves them for a few days. The device's Hopper name comes from an AutoHop feature, which automatically skips over the commercials. CBS is suing them for this feature. Oh yeah, did I mention CNET is owned by CBS.

What Dish introduced at CES was the next version of the Hopper. They added a Slingbox to it. If you're not familiar with the Slingbox, it allows you to place shift your TV watching, similar to how Tivo and the DVR introduced time-shifting to TV watching. So, over your Internet connection, you can watch something on your home DVR from anywhere with an Internet connection. It is a fantastic idea. I bought one of the original Slingbox devices, literally the first day they went on sale. I used it to watch home TV while traveling overseas for work. It was great. Another feature of the new Hopper device allows copying shows to an iPhone/iPad, but that didn't really matter in the big picture of things.

And, here is where the problems started. CBS didn't like CNET nominating someone for a best of show award who they were suing, even if the product was great. According to this Bloomberg piece: CBS has told CNET’s staff it must disqualify Dish from getting an award at the show. And they added to the review article: “The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.” It is like YouTube removing all the Viacom videos due to that lawsuit...

Talk about editorial independence. 


And now, the Streisand effect comes into play. If you're not familiar with that, Barbra sued to suppress photos of her home from being spread across the Internet. The suit didn't suppress their dissemination. Instead, it had the unintended consequence of spreading them even further and faster. Instead of hiding the photos, now everyone saw them. And, that is what is happening with Dish's new device. Instead of the announcement being buried in the sea of press releases from the show, people are talking about the product getting pulled from consideration. Instead of editorial independence at CNET, one must now take anything they consider as best of breed with a grain of salt. Is there something better out there that couldn't be named because of the whims of CBS?

If I could use the Dish network, I definitely would be interested in this new device. Unfortunately, I can't get a clear line of site to the satellites. It sounds like a great addition to the DVR. Hopefully, Tivo will license the technology and add it to their DVRs. (Dish owns Slingbox now.)

Does anyone even know who ended up winning best of show? Right... already forgotten. But not the Dish device.

Streisand estate photo is Copyright (C) 2002 Kenneth & Gabrielle Adelman, California Coastal Records Project.

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