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CBS CEO: ‘Hopper Can’t Exist’

12 Sep, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

CBS CEO Les Moonves left no doubt where he stands regarding Dish Network’s controversial ad-skipping technology offered on its new Hopper digital video recorder to subscribers.

Speaking Sept. 12 at the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch 2012 Media, Entertainment, Communications Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., Moonves said that should Dish prevail in court later this month, CBS would take its programming off the satellite TV operator’s bundled programming.

“Hopper can’t exist,” Moonves said. “If Hopper exists and [Dish] want[s] to eliminate our commercials, we will not be in business with them. It’s pure and simple.”

Specifically, AutoHop allows Dish subscribers using the new Hopper DVR to voluntarily skip ads on recorded — not live — primetime programming. CBS, Fox, including 20th Century Fox Film Corp., and NBC Universal earlier this year filed separate lawsuits against Dish alleging that AutoHop infringes upon their content copyrights and breaches retransmission consent agreements, among other concerns.

Interestingly, Moonves said the DVR has become a boon to the TV industry whereby consumers can watch network programming on their schedules resulting in larger overall viewing audiences. While studies show that most viewers of recorded programming skip commercials, Moonves was adamant that without commercials — even on recorded programming — CBS couldn’t absorb the $3.5 million it spends to produce an episode of primetime programming.

“That’s not how the ecosystem works,” he said. “If they want to continue on down that line then we will just not be on Dish. We will go elsewhere.”

Dish CEO Joesph Clayton said the networks should let the consumer decide whether s/he wants to watch commercials on recorded programming. Speaking at an event launching a new online political show with conservative commentator Glenn Beck, Clayton reportedly said networks should work with consumers through targetted advertising.

“The days of commercials as we know them are limited,” Clayton said, as reported by Deadline.com. “It’s not the 1950s any more.”

Moonves, who added CBS would pull its programming should New York-based Aereo-TV prevail in litigation to retransmit over-the-air TV programming to portable devices, said he doubts such doomsday scenarios will materialize. The executive said consumers seeking free programming without ads should watch user-generated fare on the Internet.

“CBS is not YouTube,” he said.

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