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CNET Digital Media Writer Resigns Following Dish DVR Snafu

14 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Longtime digital entertainment reporter Greg Sandoval Jan. 14 announced he is resigning from CNET after parent CBS Corp. nixed a “Best of CES” award to Dish Network’s ad-skipping DVR.

Sandoval, who formerly wrote for The Los Angeles Times and other publications, tweeted that his decision was based on the handling of CNET’s annual award given to the top innovations and products at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Dish’s Hopper DVR features AutoHop, a user-initiated software application that allows the elimination of all advertising from recorded (not live) primetime programming. Networks such as CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC have filed separate lawsuits claiming AutoHop violates copyrights and carriage agreements.

The Hopper was up for the “Best of CES” award when CBS stepped in and allegedly removed the DVR from consideration.

“Sad to report that I've resigned from CNET,” Sandoval wrote. “I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence [at CNET].”

Sandoval, who lives in New York, said he doesn’t believe that anyone in the news and reviews section of CNET did anything wrong. Instead, he believes select CNET editors used “poor judgment.”

“I’m not disgruntled," he wrote. “I just want to be known as an honest reporter.”

CBS, in response, said the “Best of CES” awards do have editorial freedom — with the exception of the Dish DVR. In a statement, CBS said the DVR represented “an isolated and unique incident.”

Indeed, CBS CEO Les Moonves has expressed his outrage over the Hopper in no uncertain terms during recent financial presentations.

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

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. CBS is not YouTube.”

Hopper received the Best of Show award at the Consumer Electronics Association’s Line Shows in New York last summer.

About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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