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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.

Well the networks all allowed legislation to be passed that enabled end users to record broadcasts to be watched later. What the end user does with that recording should be their business. There is really very little difference in fast forwarding commercials to skipping them altogether in that they are not watched. Not everyone is a DISH subscriber so I don't really see why the networks want to get all worked up over this. Maybe they should worry more about providing content that people want to watch. And maybe their corporate sponsors could make commercials that people want to watch. I think that DISH will win this in court. How can you make commercial skipping illegal? I already do it, every time a commercial comes on I switch channels.


If the networks don't get their way with the lawsuits, watch for more product placement within the shows. One way or another, viewers will have to endure advertising. The only question is how.


KHansen wrote:

watch for more product placement within the shows

Then don't see the show at all.

If all of it is laced with ads, real or subliminal, I'll forgo the show entirely.


This crap is hilarious we generally record most of what we watch on our DVR usually starting about 30 minutes before we are watching TV. Then we skip all the commercials period and have for years. Sometimes we record whole nights of TV the night prior and watch it the next day even. This amazing technology is a computer hard drive in a cable box they have been around for at least 5 years if not longer.


When you distill it down, I don’t see Auto Hop as anything fundamentally different than what I’ve been doing since I bought my first VHS recorder. Most of what I watch comes from the four networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX), and because I work in the evenings (right when they put their best shows on), if I want to see my favorite shows I have to DVR them and watch them a day or so after they air. That’s why I was excited to be among a number of Dish employees chosen to beta test the Hopper: its PrimeTime Anytime feature has been a lifesaver, virtually eliminating my scheduling conflicts. Now it’s gotten better though, because Auto Hop is worlds more convenient than pounding the Skip Forward button over and over—sometimes I feel like that’s going to give me some kind of repetitive stress injury or something.