Just How Dumb Is It For CBS To Block CNET From Giving Dish An Award?
from the count-the-ways dept
As you may or may not recall, last year, pretty much all the TV networks sued Dish Networks over a new feature it had launched, PrimeTime Any Time (PTAT), with its Autohopper technology on its DVRs. PTAT is where it would automatically record all the major networks’ prime time programming and hold onto it for a bit. Autohopper would then automatically skip over the commercials. It’s important to recognize that these features, on their own, have been considered legal. VCRs had auto commercial skip ages ago and DVR technology (time shifting) has been called fair use plenty of times. Given that, the lawsuits aren’t going well so far.
But, in a moment of pure stupidity, some very short-sighted suits at CBS made a really silly decision. As you may or may not have heard, CES — the massive consumer electronics show — has been going on all this week in Las Vegas. I just got back from there myself. At the show, Dish announced another merging of some of its products, adding its Slingbox (who they bought years back) to the same basic setup. Slingbox, of course, is for “place shifting” what the DVR is for “time shifting.” You hook it up to your TV and it lets you access what’s playing on your TV via the internet (so, via your computer, phone or tablet). It’s hardly surprising that this is where Dish was heading.
And… the early reviews and buzz were definitely strong. For example, CNET wrote a glowing review in which executive editor David Carnoy suggested it may be the best DVR out there these days. The CNET crew liked the thing so much that they nominated it for their “Best of CES” award.
Editors’ note: The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration for the Best of CES 2013 awards due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.
This is monumentally stupid, for a variety of reasons. Let’s see how many we can come up with.
- Hello Streisand Effect. There were approximately one gazillion articles this week about products coming out of CES, and the place was wall to wall with journalists — probably half of whom were coming up with their own “best of” lists. Most people were completely saturated with CES stories and would barely glance at such a story. Except… now, tons of people are suddenly finding out about this awesome Dish DVR, the Hopper with Slingbox. In fact, they’re hearing that the damn thing is so good that CBS is trying to block any news of it from getting out. Talking about increasing the awareness… I have no clue whatsoever what product CNET — or any other publication — awarded “best of CES” to. But I sure as hell am well aware of Dish’s new DVR.
- Goodbye to the wall that separates the suits from the journalists at CBS/CNET. CBS execs have just confirmed that they don’t want their journalists and reviewers to cover things based on the merits, but rather on what it means for their corporate masters.
- Hello slippery slope. Is it really that hard to see where this heads next? Is CNET still allowed to report on the lawsuit if CBS loses? If they can’t talk about the products, what about the legal issues themselves?
- Goodbye journalists with credibility. Frankly, CNET has always had some of the strongest tech reporters in the business. For many years I’ve considered it one of the top tech news sites out there. I have tremendous respect for many of the reporters there. But, now I have to wonder how much the suits are interfering with their ability to report things accurately.
- Goodbye to principled journalists who want to work for CBS. If I’m a journalist at CNET right now, I’d be seriously considering quitting in protest. This move seriously harms the brand and reputation of the site, and this is the kind of thing that journalists should stand up against. Having the suits interfere with what they can write about is generally seen as a massive offense to journalists. I would bet this leads to some of the best, most principled CNET reporters jumping ship to elsewhere.
- Good luck to CNET hiring new journalists. Who wants to jump into that toxic situation?
CBS’s suits should have kept quiet and not interfered with the news side of the business. They had to know that this would backfire in a big bad way. And, if they didn’t know that, they deserve to lose their jobs for being pretty clueless about things that matter.
Of course, they were probably thinking that Dish would likely use the reviews from CNET as evidence in the lawsuit, which very well may be true (and could still happen since the review did go out). But it’s not hard to get around that, since the legal impact of a single review is near zilch. In the end, they didn’t stifle the review, they made it more well known. They didn’t do anything that helps them in their lawsuit. And they’re left with an undoubtedly pissed off set of journalists who may now question how free they are to actually report the news.