And here we go. Our CES 2016 coverage starts early this year with rumors that DISH will have a new Hopper DVR. It’s a pretty safe bet that they will show one, at least — The original Hopper dates back to 2012, an eternity in consumer electronics terms. The second-generation “Hopper with Sling” brought some new hardware and capabilities, but there’s been an ever-growing gap between Hopper and DIRECTV’s Genie, which continues to evolve with faster processors and a smaller, more energy-efficient footprint.
There’s every reason to expect some new hardware from DISH this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, and since DIRECTV has declined to have a public booth several years in a row, DISH has continued to shine. 2015 is turning out to be a bit of a down year for DISH hardware as we haven’t seen either the promised 4K Joey nor any content in 4K from DISH, and while it’s possible that testers out there are enjoying DISH’s new user interface, regular folks haven’t seen it since it was shown in January. While most other manufacturers at CES concentrated on delivering on past promises this year, DISH bucked the trend and showed hardware and software that wasn’t ready for prime time.
That makes it very likely that we’ll see some production-ready stuff this year, but of course it’s hard to know what. Both DIRECTV and DISH have said they’ll strongly support 4K, but it seems that 4K will require additional hardware that is still leaking out slowly. Otherwise, the honest fact is that DVRs today have gotten so good, so stable and so efficient that it’s hard to want more than you have unless you’re just shooting for bragging rights. If DIRECTV or DISH wanted to have a 16-tuner 8TB DVR capable of multiple 4K streams, they would do it, but would anyone buy it? TiVo tried something similar a year or so ago with its Mega DVR and while it got a lot of press for a few minutes, the product never materialized. Why would it… who would want something like that? I mean it’s nice to drool but there just doesn’t seem to be thatmuch content out there to record unfortunately.
What DISH could do in the coming cycle is concentrate on a user experience that was clean and contemporary, that used a cleaned-up version of the user interface they showed last year, and give people a TV watching experience that was as beautiful as it is reliable. While the old adage “People watch TV, they don’t watch menus” is still true, people have become accustomed to ever-more attractive and useful interfaces on their phones and it would be a mistake for any pay-TV provider to become too mired in the past. Today’s viewer is a lot more sophisticated than he was ten years ago and it’s a smart bet that he’ll be able to handle a slicker UI with more options.
We’ll see… our CES coverage starts in earnest in late December of course, but before then we’ll be at the CEDIA Expo, which more than ever should provide a lot of insight into the stuff we’ll see at CES.