Dish's AutoHop commercial-skipping feature is causing turmoil… (Associated Press )
A local broadcaster has apparently decided to skip doing business with Dish Network in part because of its commercial-skipping device known as the AutoHop.
Dish Network said Hoak Media Corp., a Dallas-based company which owns 14 small-market television stations in markets that include Grand Junction, Colo., Fargo, N.D., and Lincoln, Neb., was no longer going to allow its signals to be carried by the satellite broadcaster.
"Hoak doesn't respect customer control -- they are telling customers they must watch commercials," said David Shull, Dish's senior vice president of programming. The AutoHop, introduced to Dish's 14 million subscribers last month, makes it easier for viewers to avoid commercials on recorded shows that air on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
While viewers can already fast-forward through commercials, the AutoHop takes it a step further. When it is activated, the screen literally goes dark when a recorded program goes into a commercial break and then returns to the show a few seconds later.
The imbroglio may be the first of many, at the local and perhaps even national level.
Last month, ABC, CBS and Fox filed a suit claiming the AutoHop violates their copyright. NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert said last month that the AutoHop "is an attack on our eco-system." CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves suggested that if Dish continues to offer the AutoHop, the network would not renew its deal with Dish to carry its stations.
Dish filed its own suit against CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox seeking a declaratory ruling that its AutoHop is on safe legal ground.
In its talks with Hoak, Dish claimed that during negotiations for a new distribution agreement with the broadcaster that Hoak blocked Dish's ability to carry the stations. "Hoak is insisting on a rate increase of more than 200% and has demanded that Dish eliminate customer-enabled commercial-skipping technology found on its Hopper," Dish said in a statement.
Hoak Media Corp. executives were not immediately available for comment.
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