Fox Broadcasting Company has filed a motion in a California district court to put a stop to the release of Dish’s new DVR service that let viewers skip commercials, because of the adverse effect it may have in Fox’s ad revenue.
The initial lawsuit was filed in May by CBS Corp, Fox, Comcast’s NBC Universal, and ABC against the nation’s No. 2 satellite provider Dish Network Corp, over the new “AutoHop” feature that allows people to skip over the commercials that networks claim are funding the very programs viewers enjoy watching at their convenience. This unprecedented feature on the Hopper DVR lets viewers press just one button to automatically skip commercials on a pre-recorded show.
According to Fox’s filing on August 22, the purpose of the preliminary injunction is to prevent what it thinks might cause “irreparable harm” to its business while the initial lawsuit remains undecided.
Fox is also charging that Dish’s “PrimeTime Anytime” feature, which records all of the prime-time TV programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox with one click and saves them for up to eight days, is a violation Dish’s contract regarding an existing video programming on demand agreement. And because once the prime-time shows are recorded, the “AutoHop” features apply, again allowing viewers to skip over the commercials, which are the main revenue source for the networks.
“By blocking television commercials, PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop will cause fewer advertisers to buy commercials and erode the main source of financing for broadcast television,” Fox said.
A Dish Network spokesman countered in an email on Sunday, explaining that “DISH believes consumers have the right to control their television-viewing experience. We’re disappointed at Fox’s continued fight against that right.” According to Dish, AutoHop is merely a fast forward type feature, and does not delete commercials. It does not allow consumers to skip commercials on live TV, so their new feature does not violate the integrity of the major networks’ business model in any way.
I’m actually in agreement with Dish on this one, because with the current DVR features, most people already fast-forward through commercials. The AutoHop only allows instant fast forwards through the commercials, without the viewer having to take the time to fast forward every single time a commercial comes on. True, some commercials get through, but do companies really know the real reason I didn’t fast forward through a commercial in a pre-recorded show? Just from personal experience, the only reason I let that commercial play was because I went to the fridge to get myself a sandwich. And when I come back with sandwich in hand and another commercial comes on, I’m back to fast forwarding until my program starts playing. I can’t speak for the various reasons why people fast forward through commercials on their pre-recorded shows, but you can multiply my story and reasons for fast-forwarding millions of times over, and what you have is really a non-case for the major networks, at least in my humble opinion.
I understand that commercials are what provides revenue, but the fast forwarding DVR genie is already out of the bottle. If fast forwarding is ok, why not instant fast forwarding? Why is it ok for a viewer to exert effort fast-forwarding through commercials, but not ok with one click of a button? I don’t know how much a commercial’s message sinks in when a customer fast forwards through it, and speaking only for myself, whatever it’s saying is lost because I was too busy exerting effort just to speed past it.
In the end, it’s up to the courts. At least when it comes to entertainment options, it’s not really a democracy, so hopefully the court rules in favour for the consumer on this one.