When you want to find a TV show to watch, typically the best way is to flip through a channel guide until you find something good. But now Dish Network is trying a different angle.
The satellite TV company is creating a platform for apps to interact with Dish's Hopper DVR . By using certain apps on a smartphone or tablet, users will be able to see what's on TV, change the channel, or start recording without picking up the remote. Although Dish already has its own remote-control apps forAndroid, iPhone, and iPad, the new developer tools will allow third-party apps to control the television as well.
For example, Thuuz Sports can alert Dish users as to when their favorite teams are playing. The app then provides an option to change the channel on the Dish Hopper or start recording the game to the DVR, as shown below. It sounds particularly useful for fantasy football, as Thuuz can import your team's information and let you tune in when one of your players is doing well.
Dish won't open up its APIs to all developers. Instead, the company is working with "trusted partners" such as Thuuz. At the moment, Dish hasn't mentioned any other partners by name, but chances are we'll see integration from TV discovery apps like Zeebox and Fan(formerly Fanhattan).
It's an interesting move by Dish as other tech companies try become part of the pay television ecosystem. Microsoft, for example, plans to let users control their televisions through the upcoming Xbox One game console, using their phones or tablets as remote controls. The company has even demonstrated how users could keep an eye on their fantasy football teams through the Xbox Smartglass mobile app and switch channels on the fly--something that sounds a lot like what Thuuz is doing. Meanwhile, Apple is reportedly negotiating with cable companies to offer its own television service.
As much as Dish's new APIs are a boon for subscribers, they also seem designed to keep Dish in control. Greater interactivity among phones, tablets and cable boxes seems inevitable, so Dish is starting to build its own platform rather than hand over the keys to Apple or Microsoft.
Regardless of Dish's motivations, opening up Hopper is yet another small step away from boring, clunky channel guides, and that's always a good thing.