Dish Network adds Netflix to subscriber bonus package

Subscribers to Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) who opt for its Hopper DVR will get an added bonus: six free months of Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), thanks to a deal the satellite operator signed with the SVOD provider. However, those subscribers won't find Netflix bundled into their DVRs, Variety reports.

Unlike the recent deals Netflix signed with several cable operators including Suddenlink and Atlantic Broadband, whose subscribers can now access the service directly from a TiVo-enabled DVR, Dish Network subs will need to access their subscription through a streaming device like a Roku box or Chromecast dongle, or via a smart TV.

"This is a straightforward promotional offer where Dish is offering several months of Netflix to its customers," a spokesperson for Netflix told FierceOnlineVideo.

A Dish spokesperson told FierceOnlineVideo that the promotion is another way to connect with potential customers. "We explore a variety of promotional ideas that deliver a compelling experience to consumers, ranging from free TV on Southwest Airlines flights to iPads for Hopper customers. Offering a Netflix trial is another opportunity to connect with consumers in a relevant and interesting way."

Customers will have until July 31, 2014, to take advantage of the offer. Once they subscribe to a qualifying plan that includes a Hopper DVR and sign a two-year contract, they'll receive a promotion code between six and 10 weeks later that will enable them to sign up for the free Netflix subscription.

It's an interesting promotional twist for Dish Network, which has attempted for years to offer its own subscription VOD service. Most recently, the provider inked a deal with Walt Disney Co. which gives it the rights to offer ESPN, Disney Channel and other networks through its own over-the-top service, one which is expected to launch later this year.

However, analysts discussing Dish's moves, along with those of other potential OTT players at a panel during The Cable Show, felt the business models around OTT delivery are still unclear.

"I don't look at Netflix as a competitor to pay-TV," Benjamin Swinburne, managing director at Morgan Stanley, said during the session. "But an OTT-rich bundle of services at a lower price point can be a game changer."

In 2011 Dish bought ailing video rental giant Blockbuster for $320 million and refocused the brand into an online video streaming and DVD-by-mail rental service, attempting to compete directly with Netflix. But the idea of going head-to-head with the SVOD juggernaut was largely abandoned by fall 2012.

Dish announced in late 2013 that it would close all 300 remaining retail Blockbuster locations and lay off 2,800 employees. It also planned to end the DVD-by-mail service, but [email protected] remains a big part of its subscriber marketing strategy, figuring prominently on its special offers page as part of a three-month free promotion.

Updated May 28 with comments from Dish.

For more:
- see this Variety story
- Reuters has this story on Blockbuster closings

Related articles:
Analysts: Watch out for Dish's OTT ambitions, but business model is unclear
Dish Network folding Blockbuster retail and DVD business
Dish scoops up Blockbuster for $228 million

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