Dish Network Under Fire from Broadcasters Over Commercial-Skipping AutoHop Feature

Dish Network has a new “PrimeTime Anytime” feature that’s part of a whole-home DVR service called “Hopper”. The service lets you access Fox, NBC, CBS, and ABC primetime content from the last eight days on demand and record up to six programs simultaneously with a storage capacity of up to 2,000 hours of content.

However, one little bonus feature called AutoHop has a team of broadcasters hopping mad. Simply put, AutoHop automatically skip commercials on recorded content, unlike typical DVR programming that requires the user to fast forward with the remote control. Apparently, Fox, NBC, and CBS think that AutoHop isn’t so much a handy DVR feature as it is unlicensed and illegal video-on-demand.

The trio of broadcasters have sued Dish Network in Los Angeles over the feature, according to the AP, and Dish has now also filed suit to get the judicial OK for AutoHop.

The broadcasters have kind of a good point here; letting a service provider like Dish automatically skip commercials on the users’ behalf obviates the point of having commercials at all. While that of course makes consumers very, very happy (Dish said in a statement that there is a “"groundswell of support from consumers"), commercials pay for the content we view.

On the other hand, once DVR technology got the OK from all these broadcasters, it’s a bit like trying to cram toothpaste back in the tube to try and stop Dish from selling a service like this one. For consumers, who are already paying out the nose to watch television via Dish Network’s service, being forced to watch commercials probably doesn’t seem fair.

The heart of the issue is whether PrimeTime Anytime is DVR or VOD; as far as we can tell, it’s a hybrid of both, and it looks like it will be up to courts to sort it out.
Tags:  NBC, DVR, ABC, fox, CBS, Dish, VOD, Misc, AutoHop