Broadcast networks postpone settlement talks with Dish


Dish NetworkNBC, CBS and ABC were scheduled to meet this week and try to cut an out-of court settlement path with Dish over their litigation on the Hopper DVR and its AutoHop ad-skipping functionality. But the networks decided to postpone until a ruling on a preliminary injunction, reported MediaPost.

The three networks and Fox are looking to shut down the Hopper’s capability to automatically skip commercials (the AutoHop), among other functions.

The potential for a truce might lie in Dish’s abilities to market the Hopper and AutoHop. If it succeeds, a settlement gets much tougher. Failure, however, might have Dish coming to the table looking for a deal, notes the story.

However, Dish said in a recent court filing that there would be “severe, immediate hardship in the form of damaged customer relations, lost goodwill and other costs” that could come with having to shutter AutoHop. Customers could be customers seeking “refunds” and cancelling service altogether.

In a September hearing in federal court, a Dish attorney indicated fewer than 1 million out of Dish’s 14 million subscribers have the Hopper, but in that same hearing, noted MediaPost, a Fox attorney said Dish has indicated it expects 2 million customers to have PrimeTime Anytime/AutoHop enabled this year.

See the MediaPost story here

RBR-TVBR observation: There have been suggestions that Dish is using AutoHop to give it leverage in negotiations with networks over carriage fees and it might be willing to eliminate it for better deals. That makes some sense, but so does the fact that Dish has something that other providers don’t—the ability to cleanly skip ads in DVR usage. In Q2, according to Reuters, the company lost 10,000 net subscribers–a much healthier number than analysts predicted and a number that tracked better than 2011 numbers. So Dish needs AutoHop—that’s why it is marketing the heck out of it.