Who doesn’t love the idea of being able to curl up on the couch at the end of the day and watch a favorite TV show without having to suffer through a single commercial? Fox Broadcasting doesn’t. According to AdAge, the News Corp-owned cable giant has asked a judge for a preliminary court ban against Dish Network’s new DVR feature AutoHop, which allows customers to skip commercials. Why, oh why would Fox try to keep this technological gem out of the hands of its viewers? Might it have something to do with the fact that networks rely on advertisers to keep them in the black? Surely Fox loves their viewers too much to be so selfish.
By the way, AutoHop isn’t the only Dish feature that Fox finds threatening. In an Aug. 22 filing in Los Angeles federal court, the network also reportedly sought to stop Dish from offering its PrimeTime Anytime function, which automatically records all prime-time shows on the four major U.S. networks and saves them for up to eight days. And Fox wasn’t alone in seeking to squelch these new features: Other networks including CBS and Comcast/NBC Universal also sued Dish in May, claiming that AutoHop infringes upon their copyrights and breaches Dish’s contracts. Touchy!
“PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop cut the legs out from under the advertiser-supported broadcast television model,” wrote Richard Stone, an attorney at Jenner & Block LLP who is representing Fox; he requested a ban on the services pending trial. “Fewer viewers will see the commercials during Fox programs and the amount advertisers will be willing to pay for commercials inevitably will fall.”
Meanwhile, Dish believes that these companies are just trying to stifle innovation, man, claiming that AutoHop “complies with Dish’s bargained-for contractual rights. ” Dish also noted that it pays “hundreds of millions of dollars per year in retransmission fees, collected from its subscriber base, for the right to rebroadcast these signals.”
While the outcome of these legal proceedings remains uncertain, the story has inspired a good deal of speculation about the future effectiveness of the dinosaur that is TV advertising–like whether new tech innovations will inevitably force a widespread “rethinking” of the system. As mobile devices and on-demand viewership grow increasingly popular, we feel like even a “win” for the networks would be little more than a band-aid on a gaping wound.