Dish Network shocked us just a couple of weeks ago by upgrading its new Hopper DVRs with "Auto Hop" ad skipping that targeted prime time programming on broadcast TV captured via its PrimeTime Anytime feature, and predictably, the networks aren't happy. After several executives took shots at the service during upfronts for the new fall programming in the past few weeks, Fox has filed suit in US District Court, while Dish Network responded with its own request for a court order specifying that it does not infringe on the TV network's copyrights. Just in the last few minutes, the New York Times reports NBC (Update: Add CBS to the list as well, THR has copies of the complaints from Dish and Fox.) has filed a lawsuit against Dish Network as well, and it likely won't be the last one to do so. ReplayTV folded under similar legal pressure, but clearly Dish Network thinks it has a workable solution and now it's going to be up to the courts to decide who wins.
DISH Sues Networks in Federal Court
DISH Looks for Ruling on Questions Related to Copyright, Compliance
ENGLEWOOD, CO--(Marketwire - May 24, 2012) - DISH today filed suit against ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in federal court for a declaratory judgment on questions that have arisen related to the pay-TV provider's May 10 introduction of a user-enabled commercial skipping technology called AutoHop. This feature is an advancement that is generating buzz and already seeing a groundswell of support from consumers.
Filed with the United States District Court, Southern District of New York, the suit asks for a declaratory judgment that the AutoHop feature does not infringe any copyrights that could be claimed by the major networks, and that DISH, while providing the AutoHop feature, remains in compliance with its agreements with the networks.
DISH's monthly subscriber fees include significant "retransmission fees" that DISH pays to the major networks. Although the broadcasters have made much of their content available for free using sites such as Hulu, they have continued to demand substantial increases in their retransmission fees.
"Consumers should be able to fairly choose for themselves what they do and do not want to watch," said David Shull, DISH senior vice president of Programming. "Viewers have been skipping commercials since the advent of the remote control; we are giving them a feature they want and that gives them more control."
"We don't believe AutoHop will substantially change established consumer behavior, but we do believe it makes the viewing experience better," said Shull.
In addition to increasing media reports of planned legal action against DISH, three of the networks -- CBS, Fox and NBC -- have rejected ads for DISH's Hopper Whole-Home DVR, the device that features the AutoHop function.
"We respect the business models that drive our industry, but we also embrace the evolving nature of technology and new ideas," said Shull. "Advances in the ability to measure and target viewership will give the entire industry -- including advertisers -- the ability to develop better programming, more effective advertising and deliver an overall better experience to the viewer."
AutoHop is an extension of the Hopper's PrimeTime Anytime™ capability, the exclusive feature that allows viewers, with one click, to record all of the primetime TV programming on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC in HD -- the networks that deliver some of the most popular shows during primetime.
Once the viewer enables the PrimeTime Anytime feature, the Hopper automatically stores these shows for eight days after they have aired, creating an on-demand library of approximately 100 hours of primetime TV shows, and making it easy to access episodes from last night, or last week. AutoHop, using patented technology, works with most shows recorded using PrimeTime Anytime (patent pending).
A viewer can watch a show with the AutoHop option commercial-free starting at 1 a.m. ET, after a show has been recorded to the Hopper's PrimeTime Anytime library. Prior to that, the Hopper's 30-second "hop forward" feature continues to work for same-day viewing.
DISH Network Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH), through its subsidiary DISH Network L.L.C., provides approximately 14.071 million satellite TV customers, as of March 31, 2012, with the highest quality programming and technology with the most choices at the best value, including HD Free for Life. Subscribers enjoy the largest high definition lineup with more than 200 national HD channels, the most international channels, and award-winning HD and DVR technology. DISH Network Corporation's subsidiary, Blockbuster L.L.C., delivers family entertainment to millions of customers around the world. DISH Network Corporation is a Fortune 200 company. Visit www.dish.com.