LAS VEGAS -- If Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) had introduced its HopperGo at, say, CES 2012, TV Everywhere's disappointing narrative might have turned out differently.
As it was, the announcement of the mobile video storage device this week seemed buried in broader company introductions that included a third-generation Hopper DVR and the first major user-interface overhaul for Sling TV.
But the HopperGo, set to hit the market with a $99 price tag sometime in the spring, is actually the very product the pay-TV industry's moribund multiscreen initiative needed several years ago.
Connecting to and charged by the Hopper DVR through a USB interface, the device includes 64 GB of video storage and is capable of storing up to 100 hours of recorded video content. Users are able to move programming from their DVR to the device, then take the device on the road with them.
The HopperGo creates a Wi-Fi cloud accessible to up to five mobile devices. That means that on, say, family road trips, you could have up to five headphoned individuals, each missing the drive to immerse themselves in their video content of choice. Or a morning commuter could catch up on the previous evening's prime-time network lineup while riding the subway.
Operators including Comcast have offered download options to their TV Everywhere apps for several years. But it's tough to store a lot of video on, say, a legacy iPad 2 with only 8 GB of storage. Further, the concept of moving video off a DVR and onto a mobile device is probably vexing to a lot of consumers.
Indeed, the HopperGo seems like it solves a lot of problems for out-of-home viewing. So why wasn't this device introduced -- I don't know -- three years ago? After all, the cheap storage and Wi-Fi technology needed to create this device have probably existed for several years.
The answer probably lies in the dynamic that has vexed TVE from the beginning: content rights. Dish has only recently assembled enough in the way of digital program licensing to make such a product viable. It would only confuse customers if they could only download a fraction of the programming they watch.
As it is, the untethered viewing freedom promised by TVE back in 2009 has finally arrived … as a sidebar to CES discussion, now focused on dedicated IP platforms like Sling TV. The HopperGo is a cool product that might catch on and be mimicked by other operators. But its arrival seems several years too late. --Daniel