Dish Network gets it. At a time when more and more consumers are dropping their linear TV subscriptions in favor of Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Amazon Instant, and other on-demand streaming video services, it seems that the response of most tradition providers is to raise rates and try to concoct market monopolies. Dish, by contrast, seems to be striving to actually give viewers more reasons to actually turn on the TV. Sometimes that motivation comes in the form of controversial commercial-skipping technology like Auto Hop. There’s also PrimeTime Anytime, which automatically records all of your primetime network programming every night and saves it for eight days, so if your friends are work are raving about that great new show you missed the night before and you want in on the fun, you don’t have to jump through all the hoops of catching up on the network’s website. In effect, the Dish Hopper takes linear broadcast television and turns it into an on-demand streaming-like experience.
Then there’s the company’s latest announcement, which is literally designed to make your TV easier to turn on. Physically. The company’s DISH Explorer app was already one of the coolest second screen experiences on the market, with its integration of social media, program-discovery tools, and the fact that doubled as a two-way IP-connected remote control for the Dish Hopper itself. Now, owing to customer feedback, Dish has added new functionality to Explorer that allows you to turn on your TV and control its volume without minimizing the app. So you don’t need to reach for a second remote just to power up and control your TV when you sit down to cue up last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory.
Now, granted, this new functionality isn’t really of particular use to me, since I used Control4 to operate my entire entertainment system, including the display, sound system, and Dish Hopper, all from one remote (or the MyHome app). What I love about this announcement nonetheless is that it’s heartening to see Dish continue to refine and enhance its Explorer technology, because that same technology is what forms the backbone of Dish’s upcoming two-way, IP integration with Control4 and Savant.
I know that the companies’ plans for IP driver support include the ability to browse programming guides, manage DVR content, purchase pay-per-view programs, and view which programs are being watched on any connected display in the home. And chances are good that the drivers will also include support for another new Explorer feature: personalized, “Picked for Me” programming recommendations based on your viewing habits.
But given that Control4 and (I assume) Savant have access to pretty much all of the Explorer app’s capabilities there’s no telling what sorts of nifty two-way tricks they’ll be able to incorporate as Explorer continues to evolve. Perhaps triggering different lighting scenes based on the genre of movie or TV show you’re watching? Perhaps a scene that dials your lights into 40 percent brightness when you’re watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and a moody 20 percent when you cue up American Horror Story? I’m totally speculating there, but since that information is available via the Explorer app, and these new smart home control drivers will have access to that information, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
But for now, if you’re a Dish customer who has yet to dip your toes into the world of connect, personalized smart home control, at least take solace in the fact that you’ll now need one less remote control.