Dish Network’s pay-TV subscribers are apparently so smitten with the introduction of voice control technology that the US operator has added the Google Assistant to Hopper, Hopper Duo, Joey and Wally set-tops – squeezing in alongside Alexa where things could have been getting a bit too cosy.
Dish Network jumped into voice for the first time in January 2017 when it integrated with Amazon’s Alexa, while Comcast set the trend a full 21 months ahead of any other US operator. Another 18 months on, some media coverage has criticized Google for being late to the party – a sentiment we couldn’t agree less with.
Remember how CES 2018 was all about Google trying to remind Amazon who’s boss? How people ridiculed Google’s mega-marketing campaign centered around the smart home and entertainment experiences, emblazoning Las Vegas with ballsy branding.
Riot’s sister service, Faultline Online Reporter, which analyzes the digital video market on a weekly basis, stated at the time how the January tech show was a warm up to a year in which Google would go hell for leather against Amazon in the TV and the ever-important role that voice plays in the video ecosystem. Now people can’t stop talking about Android TV operator tier.
It will take time before the major US operators embrace Android TV of course, but until then, integrating with Google Assistant via Google Home devices and smartphones, both Android and iOS, is the next best thing. So, Dish set-top users can now control playback functionality and browse live and DVR content using either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. With millions of Android users already familiar with Google Assistant, converting a new wave of Dish subs to embracing voice control for the TV is a given.
CES 2018 also happened to be where Dish first unveiled it was working on an integration with Google Assistant, although the operator did not set out a timeframe.
Dish says it will be adding Spanish language support for Google Assistant soon and it’s worth remembering that while Alexa might be the undisputed smart speaker market leader, Google’s voice-controlled smart assistant supports ten languages (and rising) compared to Alexa’s three (also rising).
Dish provided a line-up of example commands including ‘Record Game of Thrones on Hopper’ and ‘Launch Netflix on Hopper’. It also allows users to search Netflix content but, importantly, Dish’s Google Assistant integration does not appear to include compatibility with its own OTT video service Sling TV, although Alexa does not appear to be supported either.
Rethink TV’s recent voice remote forecast and report projects Dish to deliver 2m voice remotes during 2018 and reach 90% of its installed base of 12m subscribers by 2022, if indeed Dish still has that many pay-TV customers by then.
“Since we first introduced voice control technology, we’ve seen our customers really embrace the hands-free TV experience. Our collaboration with is an exciting opportunity for us to continue meeting demand for voice and changing the way we interact with television,” said Niraj Desai, Dish VP of product management.
Michele Turner, senior director, Google Smart Home Ecosystem, said: “We want to make it easy and fun for people to turn their living room into a smart entertainment center with the Assistant. By working closely with Dish, we’ll ensure that customers can easily control their TVs through the Assistant, instead of searching for or having to share the remote.”
Voice assistants for video, or ‘hands-free TV’, as Dish Network prefers to call the technology, has certainly been a disruptive element in the ecosystem but there is potential trouble ahead for Amazon and Google, as Roku’s long-expected assistant for smart speakers is expected to arrive in the fall.
Roku boasts a larger share of the streaming dongle market than Google’s Chromecast, so the Roku Entertainment Assistant is focused more narrowly on the entertainment aspect rather than handling a variety of tasks as Alexa and Google Assistant do. Roku already has its own voice remote, but the media adapter maker is targeting smart speakers and sound bars – initially signing up Japan’s Funai Electric pre-launch.
Roku could be considered mad for stepping on the toes of Amazon and Google but given what the company has achieved, and the doubters disproved along the way, it could well be a wildcard.