NOBODY does disruptive TV tech like Dish, razzing pay-TV rivals with stunts - the "all commercials" Super Bowl playback option, or cutting-edge Sling TV - that challenge the status quo to attract viewers.
AutoHop This: Last-yard touchdown steals and Katy Perry roars aside, the post-Super Bowl buzz yesterday was just as loud for the commercials.
If you're a Dish customer who missed that Fiat on Viagra or Jeff Bridges' "Om" spots, click the "AutoHop" option on a Dish Hopper satellite TV receiver to see what all the fuss is about.
Normally Dish subscribers activate AutoHop to cut out the commercials on primetime ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC recordings. But for the Super Bowl - and for the next week at least - Dish has flipped the equation, giving viewers the option to skip the game and watch just those multimillion-dollar spots!
AutoHop technology has been successfully upheld in court, but the commercial-skip option now comes with some restrictions, such as a week's delay before it works on a CBS show; three days for an ABC one.
Dish president Joe Clayton has suggested that an AutoHop devotee's best strategy is "use the 'record series' option, then binge-watch" later, without commercials.
Sling vs. Sling: Disrupting even its own marketing department, Dish is now pushing two nifty products with the Sling name. Kinda confusing!
Slingbox is that content-sharing device ($100 and up) that uses an Internet connection to send shows from your home cable or satellite box to distant locations. I recommend this gizmo to families with a weekend getaway place or a kid in college. Think of Slingbox as a variation on a family phone-sharing plan.
Then there's Sling TV, now in "beta" test mode. This is a fixed package of basic cable channels that Dish aims to Web-stream to "cable cutters" on their app-loaded iOS or Android-based tablets, computers and smartphones. Sling TV also can be pulled in on a TV through a Web-connected device like a Roku 3 or Xbox One.
Doesn't hurt that the FCC is now looking favorably on such "over the top," Web-delivered TV services. Maybe the agency will nudge more programmers to go along for the ride?
Testing Sling TV: Pulling down the streams via Verizon FiOS service to a Roku 3 and my 43-inch plasma TV, pictures showed good clarity and strong color, mostly well-synched with the sound tracks.
When tapping on Sling TV's scrolling on-screen program guide, it took three to six seconds to switch between channels. Not too bad.
At present, only a few channels let you pause or rewind a show.
Multiple devices can use a single Sling TV account, but the content streams to only one screen at a time.
The core, $20-a-month, no-contract "Best of Live TV" package includes ESPN and ESPN2, TNT and TBS, plus Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Disney Channel, ABC Family and CNN.
Customers also get a nice variety of pay movies, most $3.99 in SD, $4.99 in HD.
For $5 more, add a "Kids Extra" pack - Disney Junior, Disney XD and Boomerang plus the infant-oriented Baby TV and Duck TV. Or a "News and Info Extra" grouping of HLN, Cooking Channel, DIY and Bloomberg TV. A Univision Spanish channel bundle and "Sports Extra" package are coming soon.
For me, a Viacom package with Comedy Central, MTV/VH1, Showtime and the like would make Sling TV a lot more appealing. But Viacom is in tight with cable providers and just announced its own stand-alone Nickelodeon streaming service.