DISH: How can the 2nd TV remote still control the receiver?

For many years, DISH receivers have been able to accomplish a little trick that most DIRECTV receivers can’t: the ability to watch two different channels with one receiver. If you have had a DISH receiver or DVR with a “2” as the middle digit you know about this feature. Run one cable to a second TV and you can watch a second program. It’s that simple, and it’s something that set DISH apart until DIRECTV unleashed DIRECTV-Ready TVs. With DISH’s Hopper and the DISH app on select TVs, you can do the same thing and get true HD picture on every TV.

But let’s get back to the older equipment for a moment. How does DISH do it? Most people just assume the signal goes back down the wire to the receiver, but that’s not true… until the Joey brought true 2-way communication, the signal was just a plain TV output.

The secret is the DISH remote. It works as a regular universal remote, sending infrared signals down the line, but it also works as a powerful RF remote. When it’s programmed to control the second TV, it sends a radio signal out in all directions, seeking out the DVR and controlling it directly. That’s why the remote response has always been so good. The second remote is also programmed to control the second TV, so you get a seamless experience.

When this technology came out roughly ten years ago, it was revolutionary. It cut down the amount of hardware and wires you needed in a second room and was incredibly popular. This mix of RF and IR is still used to control the DISH apps on select TVs and game consoles, giving you the same excellent performance. However, because the older series DVRs could not put out HD for the second TV, DISH designed the Hopper to use client boxes at the TV so you could have good performance AND HD picture. It’s very possible to put out an HD picture over a single wire, but it’s expensive to build that technology into a DVR and still make it impossible to copy the programming that travels through the wire.

That’s why you won’t see any more dual DVRs… the content providers aren’t afraid of SD-quality copies of their shows but the idea of millions of free HD copies floating around really scares the tar out of them. It’s silly considering that you can stream almost anything, but there’s a real concern that people would just redistribute all these shows in pristine digital quality. So rather than dealing with the people actually committing fraud, they punish everyone.

But that’s probably a topic for a separate article. When it comes to DISH’s remotes, it’s just simple technology at work, not magic, although it sure feels like it when you’re using the remote, doesn’t it?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.