NBC, CBS Join Fox Litigation Against Dish’s Ad-Skipping DVR25 May, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel
NBC Universal and CBS Corp. separately filed lawsuits against Dish Network LLC, alleging the satellite TV operator’s Auto Hop ad-skipping DVR is illegal.
The two networks filed their suits May 24 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles hours after News Corp.’s Fox Television initiated litigation against Dish. The satellite TV operator, in turn, filed suit in New York against Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC, claiming the networks had conspired against it by not broadcasting its TV ads for the Auto Hop technology.
Launched May 10, Auto Hop allows Dish subscribers to skip TV ads on the previous eight days of recorded high-definition primetime network programming as part of a “Primetime Anytime” premium package. The Auto Hop feature included in “Primetime” does not allow users to skip ads during the live broadcast.
Regardless, TV executives have been up in arms since Auto Hop’s debut, declaring the technology an affront to the TV ecosystem.
“Dish simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale basis for its own economic and commercial advantage,” NBC Universal said in a statement accompanying its suit.
CBS said Auto Hop takes existing network content and modifies it in a manner that is unauthorized and illegal.
“We believe this is a clear violation of copyright law and we intend to stop it,” the network said.
David Shull, SVP of programming at Dish, said the network suits essentially argue that consumers must watch commercials.
“Will the networks next ask consumers to stop changing channels?” Shull asked. “We find that proposition absurd and profoundly anti-consumer.”
He said customers have been skipping commercials since the birth of the remote control — a reality he said networks are ignoring. Shull said the networks reap billions in retransmission fees — fees he said that are reflected in subscribers’ monthly bills. He said consumers deserve to use content they pay for as they wish.
“Auto Hop needs to be put in perspective: The majority of our viewers watch their primetime shows live or during the same evening — the time that is most valuable to advertisers,” Shull said. “We chose to incorporate Auto Hop as a next day feature and only if enabled by the consumer.”