Dish knows something AT&T doesn’t

The new HopperGO

The new HopperGO

I remember when I first explained what’s important to little kids when they watch TV. I was in my room at the Mirage, on the phone with Guest Services. Way back then, I was trying to figure out how to attach my DVD player to the room’s television set so my kid could watch something we’d brought along. Anything was possible at the Mirage, the voice told me, but why incur a charge for a technician visit when we could just tune to one of several channels featuring the finest in children’s entertainment? “My kid doesn’t want to watch the finest,” I told the voice. “He wants to see the same darned thing he watches 12 times a week. And he expects to watch it now.”

That story came to mind this week because of two news stories. A senior VP at AT&T said in an interview that the company plans to pump DirecTV content into connected vehicles through AT&T cellular service. Earlier, Dish announced a portable device for copying and replaying recordings from a Dish DVR. You can guess which idea I think is a good one.

AT&T is ignoring history. Companies have tried to program live back-seat TVs for years, and most leaned on children’s shows. None of them reached broad acceptance. For every family willing to pay for absolutely every accessory for their land boat there were a dozen others with simple DVD players.

AT&T is ignoring the present. Millennials don’t watch live TV, except a little bit of sports. No one wants to wait until the top of the hour for a show to start. No one wants commercials they can’t skip past. No one wants dozens of extra channels they don’t watch.

I own a laughably small sliver of Dish stock, but that’s not why I like the HopperGO. This little box can grab that favorite Spongebob episode and stream it to a backseat TV or any other connected device, over and over. It works for recorded movies in a hotel room. The release says HopperGO works “at the airport,” so probably not on the plane. You can’t have everything.

About the only place the AT&T plan would work better is for live sports while tailgating. Where there’s no WiFi, the equivalent Dish Anywhere stream would eat up a lot of cell data. Then again, it’s possible to set up an actual portable dish in a parking lot, and more stadiums are adding WiFi. If AT&T goes through with this, it’ll be just another solution in search of a problem.