Dish Agrees To Cripple Its Ad-Skipping DVR To Settle Fox Lawsuit

from the negotiating-away-innovation dept

For years now, broadcasters have waged legal war on Dish network for giving consumers what they want: namely a DVR that automatically skips advertisements users weren’t watching anyway. Fox, CBS and NBC Universal all sued Dish back in 2012, claiming that the ad-skipping technology embedded in its “Hopper” DVR violated copyright. Most of the lawsuits were packed with hilariously baseless claims, like Fox ignoring the Betamax case to breathlessly insist that merely recording the entire prime time lineup was making “bootleg” copies of Fox’s broadcasts.

Disney and CBS’ lawsuits were settled in 2014, with Dish agreeing to hamstring Hopper’s skipping functionality in exchange for not only an end to legal hostilities, but access to streaming video rights for its Sling TV service. Fox however continued to push its luck in the courts with decidedly mixed results; losing on many of the copyright claims, but winning on a few contractual issues. For example, the courts agreed that Hopper’s ability to download recorded content to mobile phones violated contract restrictions against the copying of programming for use outside the home.

With the arrival of 2016, however, comes word that Dish and Fox have finally ended their protracted legal battle. According to the companies’ statement, Dish has, as it did with CBS and Disney, agreed to further cripple its DVR’s ad-skipping functionality:

“Fox Networks Group and Dish Network L.L.C. have reached an agreement resulting in the dismissal of all pending litigation between the two companies, including disputes over Slingbox technology and the AutoHop, PrimeTime Anytime and Transfers features,? Dish said in the statement. “As part of the settlement, Dish?s AutoHop commercial-skipping functionality will not be available for owned and affiliated Fox stations until seven days after a program first airs.?

Though it’s not indicated by the companies’ announcement, the settlement likely also involves some broader access to Fox content for use in Dish’s Sling TV service, so the deal’s probably not a total evolutionary wash. Still, the end result is one of the most popular and innovative DVRs on the market being crippled just to make legacy broadcast executives feel more comfortable as their empires face earth-shaking disruption on every front.

With the exception of Comcast NBC Universal (which, not coincidentally, directly competes with Dish as a cable provider), all of the original 2012 lawsuits have now been put to bed — but at the cost of innovation and customer satisfaction.

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Companies: dish, fox

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Comments on “Dish Agrees To Cripple Its Ad-Skipping DVR To Settle Fox Lawsuit”

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Blaine (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I already refuse to watch anything that (at the very least) hasn’t been pause long enough to skip commercials. I guess now anything Fox related will be pushed back by 7+ days.

Or, I guess I can find something to watch that’s not all trashed with annoying crap.

To those who will respond with “but, but, the ads pay for the content.” First the ads are part of the contend and that part SUUUUUUUUUCKS. Second, risking being the target of someone in a past story, HoneyBlaine don’t care.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“but, but, the ads pay for the content.”

I’m getting very tired of this line of nonsense. What is now the most valuable public company in the world, (Alphabet), gets the vast majority of it’s revenue from simple, unobtrusive, ads that they don’t even charge for unless someone clicks. $Billions in revenue from doing ads right.

JBDragon says:

Re: Re: Re:

You can still skip all the commercials you want. You just have to push the button. It’s not that big of a deal. Generally 6 times on the 30 second skip button equals 3 minutes of a normal commercial break. 30 seconds forward, 8 seconds back in general. No waiting days. I generally wait 30 minutes from when a program starts and then play. I don’t watch anything LIVE. I don’t watch commercials on TV at all.

This really only effect the laziest of people I guess. It will have very little effect. Just a bunch of wasted money going to court over this.

You can get a TIVO Bolt and it has commercial skip. It’s for only a number of channels in a time period. You hit the skip button once and it’ll skip them all during that commercial break. There’s no waiting days or even hours. To get around the laws, TIVO has real people watching and marking the commercial breaks manually. So you can’t watch in the middle of the show and use it, you have to wait a little bit until after it’s over and then it works.

Of course that’s TIVO for OTA or Cable. Not going to work for Satellite. I use the Fastest Fast forward button also, and it zips really fast, pay attention and you can see when the show starts back up, hit play and it’ll jump back right as it’s coming back from the commercial break. For me that works pretty good also.

So FOX and the others won this dumb battle. You know what? So what! I’m still not watching a single commercial. I’ve watched very few over the years since 1999 when I got my first TIVO. Actually it was before that somewhat as I used to Record onto a VHS Player that had built in Commercial Skip. What it would do is record what you have it set to and when done, rewind and go back though marking where it thought the commercials were. it wasn’t exactly fast, but it worked pretty good. The when you went to watch the tape it would FF though the commercials on it’s own. I had a Radio Shack Electromagnet I used to wipe the tapes with. I’d pull the trigger and run it around the tape. It erased it much better to be used once again to record onto. I’d use them over and over again. That was one tuner, so Generally I would watch LIVE TV on one channel, and record something else on another channel.

In general these company’s really lost the WAR. To this day people can still record the content and skip on past it. It just can’t be automated I guess from the company. Maybe if DISH could do the same thing my VHS player did. Instead of DISH doing the marking of commercials for everyone. Everyone’s DVR just did it on it’s own. Which in effects gets around the rules. After it’s done recording it goes back and marks what it things are the commercials. In fact you could set this up yourself using Windows Media Center and some software which would do exactly that.

morganwick (profile) says:

There isn’t any evidence that Dish got any sort of CBS content to use on Sling as part of their settlement, and the fact they didn’t mention it with Fox suggest that didn’t happen here either. Moreover, ABC still isn’t on Sling despite ABC supposedly being the reason the Disney networks are on Sling to begin with. I’m guessing cause and effect might be backwards: Dish wanted ESPN for Sling and Disney said “only if you block AutoHop for ABC shows”, which opened the door to reaching the same agreement with CBS and Fox without the Sling agreements.

ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

Every day that goes by...

I’m glad we dropped Dish and are just using XBMC/Kodi on our main TV. Only payment is for Internet. Currently that’s a cable provider with no limits and typically get 17-25Mbps even during primetime.

No need to torrent it as it all comes across as HTTP traffic, so no dings on copyright infringement (the cable company will let you know if they suspect it or get a notice).

We can watch almost any tv series if it’s ever been on and almost any movie, even many of the current ones in theatres without much hassle. Heck, even watching live sports isn’t that big of a deal as long as you find a good source.

JBDragon says:

Re: Re:

PLEX and a few other pieces of software and you can pretty much watch anything you want commercial free and in HD. TV shows, Movies, all downloaded Automatically without you doing anything. You just go into PLEX and see what’s new for you!!!

I cut the cord years ago and haven’t looked back. I switched from Windows Media Center to TIVO when upgrading my PC to Windows 10. So my TIVO is recording all the broadcast channels in HD and 5.1 surround sound LEGALLY. That 30 second skip button works great. hit it 6 times and that’s 3 minutes. Generally enough for a commercial break.

Ad in Netflix, which is better then ever. Ton’s of Content. Lots of great Original programming with a ton more for 2016. Lots and lots of Kids programming. The price is still great and it’s all commercial free. With a Antenna and TIVO and Netflix, that takes up most of my viewing time. Plus I have a 800+ Movies on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-Ray. Most of them I’ve ripped and put on my NAS and then I put my discs into a 300 disc binder as a backup in my closet. Takes up a fraction of the space and I can watch that content using PLEX in any room in my house. No need to dig out a disc. Looks and sounds great. In fact because of PLEX, I can watch any of that content anywhere in the world with a Internet connection on my iPhone for example, or PC, or Airplay to a AppleTV. It’s like my own personal Netflix service, but it’s all content I like and it doesn’t come and go.

Whatever (profile) says:

“all of the original 2012 lawsuits have now been put to bed — but at the cost of innovation and customer satisfaction.”

It’s not particularly innovative to come up with a way of helping people avoiding paying for stuff – and yes, you pay for network TV by giving up a certain amount of time for commercials. Dish was trying to sell the benefits of network TV with none of the related costs, except of course to their own benefit.

Does the consumer lose out? Sure, a free lunch interrupted is a hell of a price to pay, right?

Remember, if 100% of the consumers watched the TV shows without any ads, the net results would be clear: No shows.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

you pay for network TV by giving up a certain amount of time for commercials

It’s precisely this sort of sad, trite logic that has been extended to “if you change the channel or leave your seat to go to the toilet during an ad, it’s stealing”.

But then again, considering your views on police restraint, such a leap of logic is probably par for the course.

Have you considered spreading your wisdom to the masses, that if they do not stay attentive throughout the entire duration of an advertisement, it counts as dollars stolen from corporations? Surely such intellectual epiphany would be widely accepted instead of being treated as utter nonsense, right?

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wow, what a pile of troll bait. Too bad I won’t fall for it.

“It’s precisely this sort of sad, trite logic that has been extended to “if you change the channel or leave your seat to go to the toilet during an ad, it’s stealing”.

Untrue. My point of discussion is that of a business model, and not your attempt to spin people’s opinion. The business models is “the TV shows are free, but you must put up with the commercials”. Like any situation, if a few people skip over them nobody freaks out. But there is a point where if the numbers get too low, then the value of the ad drops, the income drops, and the shows can’t be produced (at least not at the same level) as they are now.

Nothing else.

” considering your views on police restraint”

Considering your attempts at trolling and your gross exaggerations of other people’s opinions, it’s doubtful you have much good to add. Back to sleep troll!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

On the flip side, people skipping the commercials (or, like myself, simply refuse to watch ad-supported TV at all) is just the free market in action. If so many people so it that the shows cannot be sustained in that way, it’s just people collectively saying that the shows aren’t worth the commercial load.

JBDragon says:

Re: Re:

I’ve been skipping commercials since before the DVR using my VHS player that actually had commercial Skip built in!!! I got my first DVR, TIVO back in late 1999 and really have watch very few commercials since then.

My brothers Kids didn’t know what a commercial was until not long ago when they went to someone else’s house and saw them for the first time and thought they were neat! Because they only watched DVD’s or Netflix for Kids!!!

Of course there’s no free lunch which is why there’s all this product placement in programs these days. It’s not generic names these days, it’s COKE, Chevy, etc right there in front of show. The MS Surface product ad’s in programs are quite annoying.

Alf says:

Re: Re:

No, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are irrefutable proof that people are willing to pay a reasonable fee for access to content that doesn’t aggressively bombard them with in-your-face advertising. The old networks will figure this out to their benefit, or not figure it out to their peril. They need to realize that the consumer gets a vote in all this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ad companies have driven the customer away from traditional media. The BS that ads pay for things doesn’t equate to those companies being in a pest industry.

Notice their concern about people on the net running ad blockers. People would not be running ad blockers if they wanted to see the content of ads. It’s the content isn’t worth watching. It’s trash designed to grab your eyeballs in a very short span but rewards you with no good content.

On the opposite side, think superb owl. Some people actually watch it for the ads alone; or so I am told. People that do this don’t have need to block ads because the content in them is enjoyable to watch.

That tells you exactly where the problem is.

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