Dish Network Doubling Down on Auto Hop

Boxing-themed presser features Beck, Eliot Spitzer

If you were wondering whether or not Dish Network is considering backing away from its Auto Hop feature in the wake of programmer outrage and litigation, wonder no more: no.

An oversized inflatable kangaroo greeted press on their way into the conference, where Dish president and CEO Joe Clayton had some strong words for Les Moonves, who'd publicly taken him to task for the Auto Hop feature yesterday: "Let me say this to Mr. Moonves and the broadcasters: They would be well advised to tune in to the consumer," Clayton said. "Give the consumer a better experience and everybody wins. The fast-forward button didn't kill the television business."

Clayton's impromptu speech followed some theatrics from Glenn Beck and Eliot Spitzer, representing Beck's own TheBlaze and Current TV, respectively, who will debate in front of a live audience on Dish on Oct. 2, just before the first presidential debate in Denver. The event will be on Dish's channel 102 and streamed on Facebook; Clayton said he believed other carriers would be interested in the event.

The two men gave brief speeches about how their political positions disagreed overall, but came into beautiful harmony on the subject of a la carte cable offerings.

It's a position that has been getting noiser in recent months. Viacom and DirecTV went to war over bundled content and rate hikes; Dish has simply dropped AMC Networks from its roster, citing the practice of bundling smaller networks like WeTV with flagship channel AMC (AMC contends that the battle is actually over a lawsuit between the two companies over an unrelated matter).

Whatever the reason, Beck and Spitzer came representing Dish's first two a la carte cable networks. Both will be available to consumers for an extra five bucks (provided subscribers don't have Dish's 250-channel program, which includes the networks), and both will be previewing on all the MSO's packages. Current will preview through Oct. 9; TheBlaze will preview through Sept. 26.

The presser included another interesting tidbit: TheBlaze is exclusively on Dish, at least for the moment. The network told The New York Times that it would eventually seek full distrubtion, so obviously the period of exclusivity ends, but for now, the only place you can find Beck on TV is Dish.

Beck, as always, had an opinion: "Commercials are important," he said," but they don't work the way they did in 1955."

More than Spitzer, he was voluble about his new patron's commitment to freedom and justice: "I happen to believe in giving individuals the maximum amount of choice and freedom, and that's what Dish does. The days of someobdy else choosing what you watch and when you watch it and how much of it you watch are over."