From the LA Times Company Town Blog.
Satellite broadcaster Dish Network has introduced a new feature that makes it even easier for viewers to skip commercials.
Called "Auto Hop," the device automatically skips commercials in recorded prime-time programming from broadcast networks CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox -- provided the shows are watched at least one day after their scheduled airing. Auto Hop does not work on live programming.
"Viewers love to skip commercials," said Vivek Khemka, Dish's vice president of product management. "It's a revolutionary development that no other company offers and it's something that sets Hopper above the competition." Dish Network Corp. has more than 14 million subscribers in the United States.
The broadcast networks may not see it that way. There is already concern about the rapid growth of digital video recorders that give consumers the option to fast-forward through commercials. The Auto Hop takes it a step further and literally blocks the commercials from being seen even in a sped-up fashion.
The Auto Hop is part of Dish's PrimeTime Anytime feature on its DVR, called the Hopper. The PrimeTime Anytime feature automatically records the prime-time programming of the four major broadcast networks and stores the content on a rolling basis for eight days.
ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox declined to comment on the Auto Hop.
Interestingly, the Auto Hop is only being offered for use on broadcast networks and not cable channels such as TNT, USA and FX. A Dish representative said more than half of all recorded programs are broadcast shows and that there are no plans to offer the product for cable as well, although the technology would allow for that. Cable channels typically have heavier commercial loads than broadcast television.
A previous effort at a similar device was torpedoed by the television industry. Replay TV, a recording device, also offered an automatic skipping function. The networks and studios sued and won on copyright infringement grounds.
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-- Joe Flint
Photo: Dish's Auto Hop service. Credit: Dish Networks.