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Dish hands over Hopper DVR to mobile-app developers

The pay-TV operator hopes that third-party developers will dream up new ideas for its technology.

The third-party Thuuz Sports app integrates Hopper's API, so subscribers can change the channel.

Pay-TV companies typically keep their technology close to the vest, but Dish is opening up its Hopper Whole-Home DVR to outside developers -- though it's limited to a select number of programmers and for second-screen apps only.

Second-screen apps allow a separate device to work in tandem with your television and the programming you're watching. It's different than, for example, a recent social app that Dish launched for Hopper. That app, called "Social," allows viewers to follow relevant posts and tweets or to comment about a show at the bottom on their TV screens.

Dish has other homegrown mobile apps that it designed to work with the Hopper, but "tapping a deeper well of creativity" with outsiders will uncover ideas the company would have never dreamed up, said Vivek Khemka, senior vice president of Dish product management, in a statement.

Third-party apps for pay-TV services are rare. The first developer to incorporate Dish APIs into its apps was Thuuz Sports, which uses live sports analysis and social signaling to ping fans when a sporting event is getting exciting. The Thuuz app for Android and iOS also allows Dish subscribers to switch to gameplay on their TVs and record live or upcoming events while away from their TVs -- all with a single click.

The Hopper has been a contentious device. It includes technology called AutoHop, which allows customers to skip commercials. The demand for such a feature is clear, but it has rankled networks that rely on advertising for revenue.

Fox, CBS (the parent company of CNET), Comcast's NBC, and Disney's ABC have filed suits against Dish over its AutoHop feature.

Apple is said to be taking a different approach to meet the same need, while keeping in the good graces of those companies. The company is said to be meeting with cable companies about a possible premium service that would allow TV watchers to skip commercials, but it would recompense networks when that happened.