NBC Exec Blasts New Commercial-Skipping Device

May 14, 2012  •  Post A Comment

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.”


  1. Hopping over commercials is not new. ReplayTV had it ten years ago and TiVo has an undocumented feature to hop over commercials, too. What’s new is auto-hopping, although there was a VCR many years ago that auto-skipped.

  2. Why don’t the networks just tell Dish if you continue providing or selling AutoHop, you can’t carry our programs. That means your viewers won’t get Olympics, Super Bowl, The Good Wife, American Idol, SNL, whatever. While I’m sure they pay the nets a lot for their programming, letting viewers skip commercials is a big hit on their business model.
    Nobody wants to believe it, but losing advertising would be a huge burden on the economy. Losing advertising means programmers could do or say anything they want. Programmers would have to find new ways to drive revenue (most of which wouldn’t be good). Without advertising we’d certainly head to everything being pay per view.
    Ultimately, it’s the deal the nets make with the viewer. The station makes we watch the ad and they keep the price down. CAble makes a different deal. You watch the ads and pay a boat load for cable and we’ll let you continue to watch it, sucker.

  3. Why don’t CBS, FOX, and NBC execs want consumers to enjoy commercial-free TV? It’s what we want! I’m a customer and employee of Dish, and I think AutoHop is great because you can easily watch commercial-free TV. A well known consumer advocacy group, Public Knowledge, agrees that people should have the right to control how they watch TV. They’re taking a stand for consumers by creating a petition that tells CBS, FOX, and NBC media to keep their hands out of your living room and DVR. Sign their petition to keep control of how you watch TV http://bit.ly/KigXAn

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