Monday August 13, 2012 2 comments
By Steve Porter
DENVER - Dish Network has no plans to discontinue offering its AutoHop service that automatically skips commercials when recorded programs are played back on subscriber DVRs -- even though the technology has become the focus of a court battle.
Dish spokesman Aaron Johnson said the Denver-based company is not erasing the commercials, as some critics of the service have alleged.
"The commercials are still there," he said. "They're not erased. You can go and look at the commercials if you want.
"It's customer-enabled, not something we automatically do."
Dish introduced the AutoHop feature in May as part of its "Prime Time Anytime" service, which allows subscribers to record all four major networks' prime time programming simultaneously.
Johnson said with AutoHop, commercials from recorded programs can be skipped but customers must wait until the next day for the AutoHop software to complete the skip function.
When played back, a blank, black screen appears briefly where the commercials were before resuming the program.
The reaction from major broadcasters and content providers was instantly negative. All four major networks - ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox - have filed lawsuits against Dish.
"Now we move on to the real issue at hand, demonstrating that Dish Network has created and marketed a product with the clear goal of breaching its license with Fox, violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television business, which damages not only Fox and the other major networks but also the hundreds of local stations around the country," Fox said in a statement.
"We look forward to trying and winning the case on its merits."
But Dave Shull, Dish's senior vice president of programming, said the suits' aim is to force consumers to watch commercials.
"The lawsuits filed by the networks essentially argue that consumers must watch commercials," Shull said in a statement. "We find that proposition absurd and profoundly anti-consumer."
Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, rose in Dish's defense, saying the AutoHop is simply upgrading long-standing and legal DVR technology that allows users to fast-forward through commercials.
"In reality, TV networks can no more force you to watch TV commercials than a newspaper can force you to examine every ad on your way to the sports page," Shapiro said in an opinion piece on Dish's website.
"Whether it's the VCR, the DVR or the Hopper, what the entrenched interests see as a threat to their survival is nothing more than technological progress.
"The burden is on the old media to adapt."
Dish Network, one of the nation's largest satellite TV providers, serves 14.1 million subscribers.
Last month, a federal judge in New York ruled that the case against Dish should be tried in U.S. District Court for the central district of California as requested by Fox, CBS and NBC.
ABC is proceeding with its claims in New York, where court proceedings were initiated.
Meanwhile, Dish spokesman Johnson said the company fully intends to keep offering AutoHop.
"We're going to continue the service," he said. "We're finding it's popular, and people are calling and asking for it."