The Hopper with Sling, a set-top box high-definition digital video recorder on display at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, received resoundingly positive reviews from almost all the journalists that attended the Las Vegas technology showcase. It was also the initial selection for tech publication and official CES partner CNET's Best in Show award. But there was not a single mention of it among the final Best in Show selections when they were announced, the top prize instead going to Razer Edge, a tablet designed specifically for gaming.
What made Dish's Hopper stand out was that it was the first box that could not only organize and stream content to a number of devices within a home, but also, thanks to Sling technology, any content on the box or content received by pay TV services to the box could be streamed, via the internet, to any linked device anywhere as long as an internet connection can be maintained. Furthermore, with its Dish Explorer app users could watch content on the big screen while using a tablet or smartphone to automatically find trending TV and video content and discuss it, as it integrates seamlessly with Facebook and Twitter --the second screen experience -- and also turns the device into a remote control.
"Last year, Hopper delivered the DISH TV experience to multiple rooms. This year, we top that and deliver it anywhere," said Joseph P. Clayton, DISH president and CEO. "With Hopper, the value equation for pay TV becomes radically different. Customers pay only once for their content and can access it anywhere they choose, in the home, or on the go."
A device with more widespread appeal and revolutionary potential than the eventual winner. However, it also possesses two features -- Prime Time Anytime and AutoHop -- both of which allow users to automatically skip commercials. These features upset CBS Corp, CNET's parent company, and the Hopper was therefore disqualified from the Best in Show awards selection, while favorable reviews of the product were also removed from the site. A situation, which led one of CNET's senior writers, Greg Sandoval, to resign in protest, as Dish and CBS are locked in a legal battle.
Of the decision, Dish's Clayton said: "This action has nothing to do with the merits of our new product. Hopper with Sling is all about consumer choice and control over the TV experience. That CBS, which owns CNET.com, would censor that message is insulting to consumers."