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Small broadcaster to drop Dish Network over AutoHop ad skipper

Hoak Media, which owns 14 small-market TV stations, was no longer going to allow its signals to be carried by Dish, the satellite broadcaster said.

June 07, 2012|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times

A small market TV broadcaster has apparently decided to skip doing business with Dish Networks in part because of its commercial skipping device known as the AutoHop.

Dish Network said Hoak Media Corp., a Dallas company that owns 14 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.

Although viewers can already fast-forward through commercials, the AutoHop takes it a step further. When it is activated, the screen goes dark when a recorded program goes into a commercial break, then returns to the show a few seconds later.

The imbroglio may be the first of many. Last month, ABC, CBS and Fox filed a lawsuit alleging the AutoHop violates their copyright. NBC Broadcasting Chairman Ted Harbert said last month that the AutoHop is "an attack on our ecosystem." 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 contended that, during negotiations for a new distribution agreement with the broadcaster, 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 executives were not immediately available for comment.

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