By Sahil Patel
Starting Wednesday, users of second-generation Hopper set-tops can access Netflix alongside their linear TV channel guide. As long as the box is connected to the web, users can go to Netflix by clicking the blue button on the Dish remote and then selecting the Netflix icon, or by selecting the Netflix icon from the Hopper main menu.
Those who don’t have Netflix can also sign up directly from the app.
Dish said it will add support for its Joey client devices in the coming months. The company might also make movies and TV shows that are available on Netflix searchable alongside live, recorded, and on-demand programs on both the Hopper, as well as Dish’s upcoming over-the-top pay-TV service.
The relative importance of this integration for Netflix can’t be understated, and it’s not just because the company now has access to a decent number of households in the US that might not be paying for its streaming service.
Netflix hasn’t been secretive about its desire to be in the same league as the HBOs and Showtimes of the world. That goal can partly be achieved by offering premium shows that aren’t available anywhere else, which Netflix does.
But for the goal to be truly achieved, the streaming service has to be easily accessible on TV sets as HBO is. That requires direct integrations pay-TV providers, which traditionally have been hesitant to embrace Netflix for fear of angering and alienating TV programmers.
To date, Netflix has similar integration deals with smaller pay-TV providers in the US, including Suddenlink, RCN, and Atlantic Broadband. Dish, with its 14 million customers, is the company’s first big catch in the US. Expect more major players to come on board in 2015, especially as companies like Comcast continue to develop and enhance new generations of set-top devices that can connect to the web.