Auto Hop role in retrans negotiations examined


Dish NetworkThe basic issue between broadcasters and satellite MVPD Dish Network is money, of course, but Dish’s ad-skipping Auto Hop feature tends to come up when talks get tense. SNL Kagan studied whether the issue is real or negotiation noise.

The recent dispute between Gannett and Dish put the Auto Hop issue in the spotlight, but it is not the first time it has come up.

On at least one level, the issue is real – Dish is doing its best to snag new customers by touting Auto Hop, which it sells as “the Hopper.” Here’s the message we found when we went to the Dish website:

“Great TV just got better! Now you can automatically skip commercials in primetime TV – on ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC in HD. Only with the Hopper. Only by DISH”

According to Kagan, an executive with television group Hoak Media said Auto Hop wasn’t really one of the issues under discussion during its absence from the Dish lineup during a dispute, and suggested Dish itself was bringing the service up as a means of promoting its existence.

But for the most part, every other broadcaster Kagan found with an opinion did not believe Auto Hop should be in use. As CBS exec Les Moonves said, “The Hopper can’t exist.”

The Kagan study quoted Katz Television Group exec Bill Carroll, who said, “The commercials are the bread and butter of the broadcast stations, and if they are being eliminated, that’s a real issue. Not [to] be overly cliché, but that’s kind of the bridge too far. You are not retransmitting the signal, anymore — you are altering the signal. And I think that’s where the issue lies.”

Carroll noted that using a retrans dispute to promote Hopper may be an effective short-term ploy, but questioned its wisdom on a long-term basis due to the fact that the service may very well be forced out of existence – and said that in his opinion, termination is to be its ultimate fate – suggesting that it will be negotiated out of existence, television group by television group.

RBR-TVBR observation: Maybe broadcasters should show consumers how they can bypass the subscription process and get Dish Network content for free! Same thing, right? If broadcasters were able to instruct viewers on getting a viewable Dish feed without a subscription, they’d just be helping consumers, just as Dish wants to help them avoid the commercials that provide the money needed to produce the broadcast program they’re watching. Nothing personal, Dish Network – we’re all trying to keep the customer satisfied.