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Dish AutoHop vs Networks Commercial Skipping Discussion


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 14 May 2012 - 11:54 PM

Will the broadcast TV networks sue Dish Network over the Auto Hop feature?

Today was the first day of the "Upfronts" for broadcast TV's 2012-13 season, the week the broadcast networks pitch their programming to advertisers. NBC had the Monday morning assignment.

The chairman of NBC Broadcasting, Ted Harbert, led off with an introduction that confronted the ratings issues, criticizing the Nielsen company which is not unusual.

But then he took on Dish Network's Auto Hop. The simplest summary was in Dateline Hollywood:

He told the Radio City Music Hall audience that Dish Network’s new Auto Hop DVR feature, which enables viewers to automatically jump over ads in recorded shows, is “an insult to our joint programming, and I’m against it.” Many analysts have wondered whether broadcasters will ask the courts to rule that the feature violates their copyrights.

The New York Times quoted him extensively:

And finally, we all know that advanced technology provides new options to virtually every business. But just because technology gives you the ability to do something, does that mean you should? Not always.

Here’s a good example that popped up late last week. Did you hear about the new Hop initiative from Dish? With their new DVR, you hit a button on the remote and all the commercials in a program just disappear. Gone. You don’t even have to fast forward through them. Please refer to my earlier comments about our ecosystem. This is an insult to our joint investment in programming, and I’m against it.

The LA Times Business Section, which frequently runs articles about the business side of TV, ran a long article Dish Network ad-skipping feature Auto Hop irks network TV execs that contained this ominous information:

"It seems a strange thing to do," said Peter Rice, chairman of entertainment for the Fox Networks Group.

Rice, speaking with reporters on a conference call Monday to announce Fox's fall schedule, noted that broadcast networks such as Fox are the largest content providers to pay-TV distributors such as Dish, and wondered why they'd risk alienating that relationship. As for whether the network will consider legal action to try to derail Dish's new commercial-zapping offering, Rice said Fox is "still evaluating it."

This is not the first time such a technology has been launched. Several years ago, a service called ReplayTV did virtually the same thing and the broadcast networks sued and won on copyright infringement grounds.


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#2 OFFLINE   sregener

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 04:44 AM

The networks have their heads in the sand. The barn door has been open since DVR technology came along. I almost never watch commercials anyway - I skip them and rarely (less than once a week, and less than once a month for more than five minutes) watch live television. I love the auto hop not because it lets me skip commercials, but because it makes it quicker and more accurate.

Oddly, the NASCAR race on Saturday did not have auto-hop enabled, even two days later.

#3 OFFLINE   Marlin Guy

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 05:15 AM

Oddly, the NASCAR race on Saturday did not have auto-hop enabled, even two days later.


It can't. That was a live unscripted event. The commercial breaks are determined on the fly.

#4 OFFLINE   sregener

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:15 AM

It can't. That was a live unscripted event. The commercial breaks are determined on the fly.


Hmmm. Now I'm confused. Auto Hop is unavailable until midnight of the day it airs. I thought this was because Dish sends down a set of time stamps to skip from/to. Thus they could create the stamps regardless of program type. But maybe I don't understand how it works.

#5 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:41 AM

Hmmm. Now I'm confused. Auto Hop is unavailable until midnight of the day it airs. I thought this was because Dish sends down a set of time stamps to skip from/to. Thus they could create the stamps regardless of program type. But maybe I don't understand how it works.


I don't know how it works either... but I'm sure the main reason why it is delayed until 24 hours is because if they enabled it for "live" watching then the networks would likely have a legal case. Customers pausing and skipping manually is one thing, but Dish skipping during live/delayed TV viewing would be a whole 'nother ball of wax.

But... since the advertisers don't care about DVR viewings the next day because advertisers assume if you watch the next day that you skip the commercials... then Dish figured it is less of an issue 24 hours later.

Some of the networks put their shows up on their own Web sites for free streaming without commercials the next day too.. so it seems like that would be ok for Dish to allow the same.

That, I assume, is the reason behind the 24 hour delay.

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#6 OFFLINE   Marlin Guy

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:54 AM

My thoughts were that pre-recorded programs (meaning non-live broadcasts) would have pre-determined commercial breaks in them, which Dish used as triggers for Auto-Hop.
Live sports broadcasts go to commercial when there's a break in the action. Fox will cut a commercial short during a NASCAR race to go back live when there's a serious accident or other significant event, so there's no way for Dish to know when these occur.

#7 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:56 AM

Perhaps I should have expanded on this a bit. Harbert, NBC Chairman, was advocating the use of C7 ratings - commercial viewings over seven days. What wasn't made clear in his rantings was that most advertisers are accepting C3 - commercial viewings ratings as a supplement to the Nielsen Live+same day.

Auto Hop threatens to make the C7 and the C3 useless.

One of the things C3 evaluations are showing is that a majority of viewers are too lazy to skip commercials. Auto Hop helps the lazy.

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#8 OFFLINE   paulman182

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 09:57 AM

Don't worry. Technology such as this will win out, meaning that broadcasters who depend upon advertising for their existence will either go out of business, or increase the number and size of ads superimposed on the screen during the programs themselves.

Those don't bother anyone, do they?

#9 OFFLINE   Jhon69

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 12:29 PM

I don't know how it works either... but I'm sure the main reason why it is delayed until 24 hours is because if they enabled it for "live" watching then the networks would likely have a legal case. Customers pausing and skipping manually is one thing, but Dish skipping during live/delayed TV viewing would be a whole 'nother ball of wax.

But... since the advertisers don't care about DVR viewings the next day because advertisers assume if you watch the next day that you skip the commercials... then Dish figured it is less of an issue 24 hours later.

Some of the networks put their shows up on their own Web sites for free streaming without commercials the next day too.. so it seems like that would be ok for Dish to allow the same.

That, I assume, is the reason behind the 24 hour delay.



That was my thoughts also,so if you watch the program the next day you can use AutoHop.Where we wait a few hours and then view our recorded programs,so nothing will beat FFWx15/then SkipBack on my 922(that just got Blockbuster@Home Today/S118!).:D

#10 OFFLINE   356B

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 01:47 PM

Dish is a multi-billion dollar corporation with millions of customers, I have no way of knowing but one would assume the "Auto Hop" was thoroughly vetted through legal. Whether Dish uses this on the other channels? probably...eventually.
I believe any perceived loss of revenue by networks because of "Auto Hop", real or otherwise will be placed squarely on the backs of the customers...as usual. I'm looking at rates for locals to go up the next time around and Auto Hop staying exactly where it is.
Thank you and
Best of luck

#11 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 01:49 PM

What wasn't made clear in his rantings was that most advertisers are accepting C3 - commercial viewings ratings as a supplement to the Nielsen Live+same day.

Auto Hop threatens to make the C7 and the C3 useless.

One of the things C3 evaluations are showing is that a majority of viewers are too lazy to skip commercials. Auto Hop helps the lazy.


I think you touched on this before (either in this thread or another) and I forgot about that. It is surprising, but IF advertisers do start paying attention to people who DVR but still watch commercials later... then yeah, this Auto-Hop feature will put the screws to that.

I would hate to see advertisers coming to the party and willing to meet us DVR delayers half way... and then back off because of an auto-skip feature.

Truth be told, I probably end up watching more commercials on my DVR than live... because live I "tune out" mentally during commercial breaks like always... but when watching DVR programs, since the skips aren't accurate, I end up watching parts of some commercials AND if something catches my eye while skipping ahead I will backup and watch commercials sometimes.

The Auto-Hop feature, while convenient, means I miss all of the commercials.

Also, ESPN has done something kind of cool that I wish other networks and shows would try... If you watch Around the Horn or Pardon the Interruption... during their commercial breaks they throw in some behind the scenes clips and things that happen between takes... and if you skip commercials you miss those. I thought it was ingenious to throw in those things because I want to watch them, so I don't skip the commercials during those shows.

Imagine if primetime shows threw in a blooper or deleted scene or something during some commercial breaks... I bet more people would stop skipping commercials to catch those extras.

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#12 OFFLINE   4HiMarks

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 03:51 PM

A few years ago, I saw what I thought was the future of commercials on an episode of "Las Vegas", where three guys in SUVs drove up to the Montecito and jumped out, running into the casino. Later in the show, we saw them again, driving the same SUVs up into the mountains to ski or something, where the off-road and snow/ice capabilities of the vehicles were very conspicuous. Then came an overlay graphic of the make and model and some sort of tagline. It was so seamlessly integrated into the storyline, I didn't realize it was an ad until it was almost over.
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#13 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 04:06 PM

Keep in mind that it would be possible for the networks to stop using blocks of commercials and start spreading them seamlessly through shows at more random points without even advising their affiliates.

Right now commercial blocks serve the affiliates who can "insert local commercial here." That may end up being the only ones we'll be able to skip easily.

Oh, and I agree with Stewart as we do stop to watch an interesting commercial and used to space out or talk "among ourselves" back when we couldn't skip.

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#14 OFFLINE   Earl Bonovich

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 04:14 PM

A few years ago, I saw what I thought was the future of commercials on an episode of "Las Vegas", where three guys in SUVs drove up to the Montecito and jumped out, running into the casino. Later in the show, we saw them again, driving the same SUVs up into the mountains to ski or something, where the off-road and snow/ice capabilities of the vehicles were very conspicuous. Then came an overlay graphic of the make and model and some sort of tagline. It was so seamlessly integrated into the storyline, I didn't realize it was an ad until it was almost over.


For every good example of an in-line product placement, there are at least two or three bad ones.

Bones is currently one of the absolute worst with their Toyota inserts... it is so forced and bad. I have to pause the program sometimes, because I just shook my head.

Pawn Stars, I believe is purposly done bad (Subway), because it fits the show.

Hawaii 5-O is hit/miss with their Microsoft hooks, but good on their Chevy ones.

Dell is pretty seamless on Big Bang

It can be done well, but it often done very porely.
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#15 ONLINE   sigma1914

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 04:22 PM

...
It can be done well, but it often done very porely.


How about this way? ;)

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#16 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 04:29 PM

Describing the AutoHop Feature:
In my experience it has been available after 2am the night of airing. No 24 hour wait, just "the next day". (I am on Eastern Time.) The NASCAR race which ran from 6:30pm to after 11:00pm (with PTA cutting off the last three laps and celebrations) was a live event with commercials placed where the network could between the "action". The last commercial breaks during the race were done in a "side by side" format with the commercial on one side and the race on the other.

As for the potential lawsuit:
It doesn't surprise me - I even predicted it when AutoHop was announced. But I do not believe DISH is doing anything illegal.

AutoHop is an option. Customers are given the option every time the watch the flagged programs whether or not they want to use the feature. Call me lazy, but I'm actually waiting until the next day now to watch broadcast prime time because I want AutoHop.

Legally - retransmission of locals requires satellite providers to retransmit the programs unedited. Which is what DISH does up until 2am. Delayed retransmission is a separate issue. If it were a local cable system that aired ONLY the program and not the commercials and did not have the "live" feed I believe there would be a violation. DISH moving the technology to the receiver instead of editing the program at the headend makes the lawsuit more interesting.

Quite frankly, if copyright law prevents AutoHop it probably should prevent PTA as well ... if not the entire DVR concept. I don't believe the courts are ready to do that.

#17 OFFLINE   356B

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 09:38 AM

I agree with the conclusion that if Auto Hop in found to be illegal then the manual skip feature of a DVR is illegal....and we all know that's not going away.
The NBC posturing was just that, these people are not stupid, they knew this was coming, but what the gonna say? Oh isn't Auto Hop great, don't you just love not having to skip through all those commercials?
No Dish kicked Auto Hop down the road for months if not years and it's not going away either.
The only change we'll see is the price we pay... :rolleyes:
Thank you and
Best of luck

#18 OFFLINE   Stewart Vernon

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 12:30 PM

I agree with the conclusion that if Auto Hop in found to be illegal then the manual skip feature of a DVR is illegal....


I'm not saying either will or should be illegal... but they are two VERY different things.

Skipping commercials manually requires user intervention, which means you have to be there watching the TV, which means you can't help but see some commercial portions as you skip forward/back.

Auto Hop, however, means it jumps directly across the entire commercial break automatically without user intervention or potential exposure to commercials at all... and all you have to do is enable the feature once and you're done.

Illegal or not... I could see it being a bone of contention with networks. They can't force anyone to watch commercials, which is why the trick play on the DVR can't be put back into the genie bottle... BUT networks surely could fight any feature that automatically skips the commercials without user intervention.

Think of it like junk mail... I toss a lot of junk mail directly into the trash from my mailbox... but there is still a possibility I might see something I like during that process... but if the USPS allowed an automatic "junk" filter to have the postman trash my junk mail for me before I have a chance to see it, then there would be a problem... the post office makes a lot of money charging postage on those junk mail that IF they started tossing them for the customer, they would lose that revenue.

Similarly... Auto Hop starts the conversation with advertisers to the networks to say "we aren't going to pay for ads that we know no one sees because they can turn the ads off" and if the networks start losing that ad revenue then they start knocking on Dish's door for higher fees to retransmit... and then we are on a fast downward spiral.

A better example might be say DBSTalk selling ad space on the Web... people see and click ads and it helps those advertisers so they keep paying DBSTalk for ad placement... Now, there is ad-blocker software out there... but DBSTalk isn't selling or promoting it. Imagine if one hand of DBSTalk was saying "pay us for ad space" while the other hand of DBSTalk was saying "here, use ad blocker to block all the ads on our site"... do you think DBSTalk would be getting a lot of advertisers willing to pay for placement after that?

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#19 OFFLINE   3HaloODST

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 12:56 PM

I agree with Mr. Vernon. Pretty much the same thing I've been saying at the "other" forum only to be called Chicken Little :nono: .

#20 OFFLINE   356B

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 01:49 PM

It is of little consequence what any of us think is legal, illegal or litigious. The facts are clear, Dish has opted to release a software device which with the interaction of the subscriber eliminates portions of their broadcast after a specific period of time has elapsed.
I think the significance of the 1am rule cannot be ignored. That prerequisite to the use of Auto Hop tells the tale, the deal was stuck, the rules are clear... Posturing and chest beating aside.
Thank you and
Best of luck

#21 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 03:09 PM

Commercial advertisers have delivered "free" television programming to American viewers since the beginnings of tv. The phrase "brought to you by..." or "sponsored by..." has real significance to tv advertisers. They bring "free" tv to your living room, in return, you watch their commercials -- at least, that's the model, the way it's supposed to work...the price we pay for free tv. Subverting the free tv model by skipping commercials is like going sneaking into a movie theater or walking into a retail store, ripping the price tags off the merchandise and walking out with the goods without paying.

Either way, it's stealing.

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#22 OFFLINE   356B

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 03:43 PM

So let me get this straight....you really believe the Networks had no idea this was coming or what Dish was up to?
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#23 OFFLINE   bigdog9586

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 03:59 PM

I had a Panasonic VCR a good 15 years ago that had the skip feature. Didn't work EVERYTIME but most of the time.

#24 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 04:11 PM

Auto Hop, however, means it jumps directly across the entire commercial break automatically without user intervention or potential exposure to commercials at all... and all you have to do is enable the feature once and you're done.

AutoHOP is not once and done. The customer makes the choice every time they start playback of an AutoHOP program ... including replays of the same program on the same Hopper/Joey.

It is easy to say yes ... but it is a decision presented every time the show plays.


Illegal or not... I could see it being a bone of contention with networks.

It certainly will be a topic at contract renewal for retransmission.

... but if the USPS allowed an automatic "junk" filter to have the postman trash my junk mail for me before I have a chance to see it, then there would be a problem...

The Direct Marketing Association allows people to opt out of commercials: https://www.dmachoice.org/ At least they give the option.

A better example might be say DBSTalk selling ad space on the Web... people see and click ads and it helps those advertisers so they keep paying DBSTalk for ad placement... Now, there is ad-blocker software out there... but DBSTalk isn't selling or promoting it. Imagine if one hand of DBSTalk was saying "pay us for ad space" while the other hand of DBSTalk was saying "here, use ad blocker to block all the ads on our site"... do you think DBSTalk would be getting a lot of advertisers willing to pay for placement after that?

The trouble is DISH is paying broadcasters for their channels ... local broadcasters are not paying DISH for carriage - local stations are specifically prohibited by law from paying for cable or satellite carriage.

The ad example doesn't work, as site like ours are paid by those advertisers and any attempt to block ads immediately hurts the site. (I am not involved with advertising at this site - but in general, sites with advertising are paid for impressions and or click throughs. If an ad is not displayed there is simply no payment ... if no one clicks on an ad there are no click through payments. The penalty for not showing the ads is built in to the deal.)

If DBSTalk had an integrated content service ... some company that was paid for their presence of the site (which we don't) and then we allowed our users to choose to watch the integrated content with or without that company's commercials that company might get ticked. But there is no such company.

#25 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 17 May 2012 - 12:08 AM

Much to my surprise, The Hollywood Reporter on Monday published an article How the TV Industry Blew Its Best Chance to Kill Dish's Ad-Skipping Technology. It's worth reading the whole article, but here's some highlights. The ReplayTV suit was never resolved because Sonicblue declared bankruptcy. There was never any substantial judicial determination about the merits of the case. According to the article:

...The biggest question at the time was a service provider's vicarious responsibility for its users. In the Supreme Court's Grokster ruling, it was affirmed that there was responsibility, but then broadcasters sued Cablevision over a remote-storage DVR system, and the 2nd Circuit found that the system was "akin" to the VCR and that Cablevision's system was only acting at the best of its users.

...Michael Elkin, a partner at Winston & Strawn, currently defending Aereo against claims made by broadcasters, believes the Cablevision case "validated the DVR functionality" and also gives another reason why a potential Auto Hop lawsuit is more likely to resemble Cablevision than ReplayTV. "Here, Dish is a licensee of the major television broadcasting companies and intends as I understand to limit the commercial-skipping device to discrete TV programs just on the major networks," he says.

In other words, Dish has a licensing agreement over programming, and the threshold question will be whether the company has breached the agreement.

This article and other articles note that taking on Charlie Ergen in court is not anywhere near the walk in the park the ReplayTV lawsuit represented.

It is true, of course, that at some point they could refuse to renew retransmission agreements with Dish. But it isn't as simple as it sounds.

The network that would most likely be a critical player in a lawsuit, Fox, just signed a retransmission agreement which even gives Dish subscribers early access to on line content. It won't expire for a number of years. So missing from the mix will be Rupert Murdoch, the only true worthy opponent for Charlie.

NBCU has a very big problem since it is 51% owned by and completely controlled by Comcast, one of Dish's biggest competitors. What are they going to argue? Well, yeah, our DVR does allow manual skipping. But this one makes it more convenient than our box to skip limited programming on one of our many channels.

CBS can't afford to lose Dish customers, most of whom don't use Hoppers anyway.

And whether the folks over in the Disney executive suites realize this or not, Dish would seriously consider dumping Disney/ESPN/ABC altogether, allowing them to knock at least $13/mo off the price of all packages. That's the kind of number that gets the favorable attention of subscribers and unfavorable attention of Congress.

It's always interesting to watch Charlie's machinations. The Hopper as a problem represents...
  • a small percentage of Dish customers watching...
  • non-live content...
  • recorded during a few hours out of the day...
  • from just 4 local broadcast network channels among the hundreds of channels available.
And think how long it took to resolve the Tivo case....

But it is a fundamental challenge to the 1958 broadcast network TV channel model, which has outlived its usefulness.

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