A new device that automatically skips commercials in recorded prime-time programming from the big four broadcast networks came under fire from NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert, the Los Angeles Times reports.
"I think this is an attack on our eco-system," Harbert said of Auto Hop, the new device from satellite provider Dish Network. “I’m not for it,” Harbert added, speaking during the network’s conference call to announce its prime-time schedule for the 2012-13 season.
The report adds: “Harbert declined to comment on whether NBC or its parent Comcast Corp. was preparing any sort of legal response to Dish Network Corp.’s new technology. He did say he would have an elaborate message to advertisers and Dish on Monday at Radio City Music Hall when the network presents its fall schedule to advertisers.”
Dish introduced Auto Hop last week as a component of its PrimeTime Anytime feature on its DVR service, which is called the Hopper, the story reports.
“The Anytime feature automatically records the prime-time programming of CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox and stores the content on a rolling basis for eight days,” the piece reports. “Viewers who use the PrimeTime feature can use the Auto Hop to literally black out commercials, provided the programs are watched the day after their original airing. The way it works is that the customer pushes a button and then when a commercial break appears, the screen goes black for a few seconds and then the program returns. The Auto Hop can’t be used on live programming such as a sporting event that has been recorded.’
Dish is providing a heavy marketing push for the device to its 14 million-plus subscribers, the report notes.
The piece adds: “The broadcast networks have so far stayed mum about the Auto Hop but in the past have expressed great concern about any device that allows consumers to bypass commercials. While digital video recorders allow a viewer to fast-forward through spots, the commercial images still play on the screen, albeit faster. The Auto Hop gets rid of the advertisements altogether.”
Auto Hop is currently being offered only for broadcast programming, but the technology could be expanded to cable, the story notes.
The story reports: “A Dish spokesman said the reason it is limited to broadcast shows is because those are the shows most frequently recorded by consumers. Whether that decision to offer the device only for a handful of channels provides fodder for a lawsuit will no doubt be revealed in the weeks ahead.”