More to Dish’s Netflix-fronted hotel TV drive than meets the eye

Ever since pay TV operators began diversifying their business models once the cord cutting phenomenon was widely accepted, Dish Network has always been known as the operator stuck in the mud. It infamously paid $320 million for Blockbuster in 2011 with the aim of creating a Netflix killer and has essentially struggled to use its valuable spectrum to great effect outside of satellite TV. This week though, slipped in among the rumors of Dish paying $6 billion for certain T-Mobile and Sprint assets, was an innocuous yet innovative announcement from Dish about being the first US operator to bring Netflix to a customized hotel TV platform.

Okay, admittedly Dish’s hotel TV launch hasn’t grabbed headlines to the same effect as Comcast’s eye-tracking TV technology to assist viewers with disabilities, which the cable giant unveiled this week, but for an operator like Dish which has struggled in OTT video, this diversification is significant.

From Netflix adversary to Netflix advocate, Dish’s Evolve TV platform for the hotel industry has integrated the world’s top SVoD platform for guests to stream over WiFi using their personal Netflix accounts directly on the TV set. For the security buffs, fear not, as credentials are removed upon check out. A neat new feature is that Evolve TV now allows guests to stream TV anywhere in the hotel on personal devices – live and on-demand – poolside or at the bar.

It’s simple and effective, working with any hotel’s existing wiring system as well as upgraded network infrastructures – supporting video distribution over coax and IP streaming via SmartBox, Dish’s headend video distribution platform for commercial applications, celebrating its second birthday this month. It claims scalability from something as small as a 20-unit motel, right up to a 4,000 unit resort, while also reducing operational energy costs as the Dish SmartBox requires just 300 watts of power for a typical 40-channel HD lineup – meaning no expensive cooled equipment rooms.

It also allows for local content insertion, meaning hotel owners can show an amenity channel, advertising, restaurant listings or even provide a channel for local businesses to market their services.

It’s a little peculiar then that Dish isn’t pushing Sling TV as part of its Evolve TV hotel market drive – instead prioritizing old foe Netflix over its own $25 a month skinny bundle. Dish has clearly done its market research although it’s easy to see this as Dish being lackadaisical with marketing Sling TV.

Of course, despite Sling TV’s relative success, adding 40,000 subscribers in the last quarter to reach 2.34 million, the service will be miles from being profitable – needing years of nourishment before becoming one of Dish’s major revenue streams and even this is likely to suffer further price erosion as the market for OTT video products becomes ever more competitive.

That might change though if Dish succeeds in getting a slice of assets from T-Mobile and Sprint, including the Boost Mobile brand and wireless spectrum, providing the satellite TV operator with the major business diversification it has long craved.