Dish unveils 16-tuner 'Hopper 3,' announces major UI changes to Sling TV

LAS VEGAS -- Continuing a tradition of making a flurry of major product announcements here at the annual CES trade show, Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) announced an upgraded version of its Hopper DVR with a whopping 16 tuners, as well as the first major user-interface changes to its year-old IP-based Sling TV service. 

Ramping up pay-TV's DVR supremacy battle to another level, the Hopper 3 features a Broadcom CBM7445 1.5 GHz quad-core processor, which Dish says makes it seven times faster than the legacy Hopper 2, as well as twice as fast as the new TiVo Bolt DVR.

The Hopper 3 also features a 2-terabyte hard drive capable of storing up to 500 hours of HD programming, as well as native 4K, HDR and HDMI support. A new partnership with Sony Pictures allows for a select number of 4K theatrical titles, such as The Amazing Spider Man, to be downloaded. Netflix integration also allows the Hopper 3 to stream Netflix 4K titles.

The device can power up to six Joey client boxes and up to seven TVs. The box can also display four HD signals onto a single screen simultaneously, and now has YouTube app integration to go alongside Netflix. 

Notably, Dish also introduced another interesting DVR client device, the Hopper Go, a 64 GB storage device that allows Dish users to take up to 100 hours of SD programming on the road to watch on mobile devices. It will hit the market sometime in the spring with a retail price of $99.

Still, it was those 16 tuners that elicited gasps from the audience at Dish's press event here. "Goodbye, recording conflicts," said Dish CTO Vivek Khemka, noting that some customers complained that the six tuners embedded in the Hopper 2 were too few. 

Just like last year, Dish's CES announcements were split between the company's traditional pay-TV service and its efforts with Sling TV, the company's streaming video offering overseen by CEO Roger Lynch.

Standing on the same stage on which he first formally introduced Sling last year, Lynch unveiled major UI enhancements that feature search, recommendation and curation. 

Rather than just delivering a linear array of channels, the new "My TV" feature on Sling will surface a customized menu of favorite shows and programming events. 

The Sling "On Now" feature, meanwhile, will automatically curate a thumbnail-laden list of the hottest current programming events.

Sling has also ramped up its relationship with the Walt Disney Company to include ESPN 3 in its basic $20-a-month tier.

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