Lawsuits Filed Over Dish Network's Commercial-Skipping Service
May 26, 2012

Lawsuits Filed Over Dish Network’s Commercial-Skipping Service

Three US broadcast networks have filed a lawsuit against a Dish Network over their DVR service that allows customers to skip commercials during playback of recorded shows, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Friday.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday and revolves around two features included on the second largest American satellite TV provider's Dish Hopper DVR. Those features are called Prime Time Anytime and Auto Hop, and as previously reported here at RedOrbit, the former allows users to automatically record all prime time shows on the ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC networks at the same time and the latter which allows them to automatically skip ad breaks during those programs with the push of a button.

According to CNNMoneyTech's David Goldman, CBS claimed that AutoHop would deprive them of "a vital means of payment for their works" and that advertisers would "not pay, or will pay less, to have their advertisements placed within and around" the company's primetime television shows, which they say generates the highest ad revenue figures for the channel.

Likewise, NBC called it an "unlawful service," while Fox accused Dish Network of taking advantage of its right to retransmit their programming in order to "advertise to the world that 'Dish created commercial-free TV.'"

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in a Los Angeles federal court, AP's Ryan Nakashima said.

Dish Network responded with a lawsuit of their own, filed in New York, seeking a ruling that establishes that the Auto Hop service "does not infringe any copyrights that could be claimed by the major networks, and that Dish, while providing the Auto Hop feature, remains in compliance with its agreements with the networks," the company said in a press release, according to Brian Stelter of the New York Times.

They included ABC in their lawsuit, but the Disney-owned network has not yet filed any legal action against Dish Network and did not respond to Stelter's request for comment on the matter.

"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," NBCUniversal said in a statement, according to the AP.

"This service 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," CBS added.

"Viewers have been skipping commercials since the advent of the remote control," countered David Shull, Dish's senior vice president of programming. "We are giving them a feature they want and that gives them more control."

"Mr. Shull said that Dish had invited the networks to talk in detail about Auto Hop after it was announced in early May. But 'in the background we heard rumors of lawsuits, so we felt we had to act here,' he said," according to Stelter.