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:
The New York Times quoted him extensively:
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 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:
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.
"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.