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Less than two weeks after DISH Network announced their clever and automated, albeit limited, commercial skip functionality Fox, NBC, and CBS have filed suit for copyright infringement and breach of contract:

[Fox] were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, DISH Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem. Their wrongheaded decision requires us to take swift action in order to aggressively defend the future of free, over-the-air television.

NBC has filed suit against this unlawful service in order to keep over-the-air broadcast television a strong competitor. Advertising generates the revenue that makes it possible for local broadcast stations and national broadcast networks to pay for the creation of the news, sports and entertainment programming that are the hallmark of American broadcasting. Dish simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale basis for its own economic and commercial advantage.

This service takes existing network content and modifies it in a manner that is unauthorized and illegal. [CBS] believe this is a clear violation of copyright law and we intend to stop it.

Of course, no one should be surprised by this highly likely development. What remains unknown is if DISH will be forced to remove the feature from their flagship whole-home Hopper DVR or if they might work out some sort of On Demand-esque licensing.

Coincidentally, DISH & Roku just partnered… and Roku’s CEO Anthony Wood happened to found ReplayTV — who was similarly attacked by the broadcasters about a decade ago for implementing commercial skip. So perhaps he had some advice for DISH CEO Joe Clayton as they prepared their own preemptive legal strike today against ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC:

DISH today filed suit against ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in federal court for a declaratory judgment on questions that have arisen related to the pay-TV provider’s May 10 introduction of a user-enabled commercial skipping technology called AutoHop. DISH’s monthly subscriber fees include significant “retransmission fees” that DISH pays to the major networks. Although the broadcasters have made much of their content available for free using sites such as Hulu, they have continued to demand substantial increases in their retransmission fees. In addition to increasing media reports of planned legal action against DISH, three of the networks — CBS, Fox and NBC — have rejected ads for DISH’s Hopper Whole-Home DVR, the device that features the AutoHop function.

What Color Is TiVo's Hat?

Dave Zatz —  May 16, 2012

As fallout over DISH Network’s new Auto Hop commercial skip feature expands, TiVo has injected themselves into the conversation. From the New York Times:

TiVo has taken the same approach, promoting ways to serve ads to viewers even as they’re fast-forwarding through them. “We’ve gone from being a black hat to being more of a white hat,” said Tom Rogers [...] TiVo owners can find ways to hack the hardware and create an auto-skip feature, but the company has never promoted it, preferring instead to be in business with the broadcasters.

Never mind the gross mischaracterization of TiVo’s quite manual 30 second skip, which is more easter egg than “hardware” hack, and let’s focus instead on TiVo’s increased chumminess with the broadcasters, advertisers, and cable industry… who are often one and the same. While they may find TiVo more “white hat” these days, us subscribers might actually see it in reverse. Something I discussed with The Associated Press back 2009:

He said he’s been wondering, “Who are TiVo’s customers?” People like him, or advertisers? “They’re getting paid on both ends.”

All things considered, I’d say TiVo has been relatively successful walking that fine line as they’ve the brokered deals (and defended patents) needed to survive without overly polluting our end-user experience. But I hope they continue to remember us little people. As the best way to skip commercials doesn’t involve cable television or DVRs. Rather, it remains renting DVDs and Blu-ray discs from Netflix.

dish-auto-hop

DISH Network continues to tempt fate (and the studio empire) given the introduction of automatic commercial skipping via their Hopper DVR and Joey extenders. If you recall, this new and highly regarded whole home solution features “Primetime Anytime” which records local prime time television programming (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC) and retains this content 8 days. Those very same recordings, or perhaps a subset given the fine print, will now display the Hopper pink kangaroo icon a few hours after broadcast, indicating “Auto Hop” commercial skip is available.

DISH says Auto Hop is something we “consumers have been waiting for since the dawn of television.” Which isn’t entirely accurate… As we’ve only been waiting since Replay TV excised similar functionality (available on any channel/recording) under legal studio pressure. Will history repeat itself? Or, perhaps, DISH’s technical implementation and limited scope insulates them in some way. Regardless, it’s interesting to compare and contrast their customer-centric approach to the conflicted Comcast that just filed a patent application to inject onscreen advertising overlays when customers fast forward by commercials.

tivoxfinity-billboard2

Now that the roll out of TiVo Xfinity On Demand is complete in the San Francisco Bay Area, Comcast and TiVo are pumping the hybrid initiative via billboard, bus, radio, and television advertising in what’s been described to me as a “joint effort.” In recent years, TiVo has shunned most forms of advertising beyond the web… so I find this to be a refreshing change in approach that hopefully bears fruit in terms of new retail subscribers. As to the product itself, Comcast’s formerly inaccessible On Demand offerings, both paid and included with one’s subscription, are now automatically available at no additional cost via TiVo Premiere DVRs. At least in this one (large) Comcast region. TiVo suggests you register here to be alerted when your Comcast neighborhood is upgraded. Of course, it’s also safe to assume we’ll continue to provide updates as they become available. Bonus advertising: One TiVo Community forum member also caught a TiVo Xfinity standee in a Bay Area Best Buy. Continue Reading…

premiere-xl4-front

We suppose it’s safe to assume the TiVo Premiere Elite soft launch, with limited retail inventory, was a success. As the company has not only decided to wisely simplify branding across the Premiere DVR line, they’re also reintroducing the “Elite” as the “XL4″ in full color packaging (versus their original brown box). The new boxes are expected to roll out at Best Buy beginning on Sunday. And, as a refresher, the TiVo Premiere lineup includes three models of varying recording capacities and tuner count:

  • Premiere, 2 tuners, 75 hours of HD recording, $150
  • Premiere XL, 2 tuners, 150 hours of HD recording, $250
  • Premiere XL4, 4 tuners, 300 hours of HD recording, $400

It’s also worth noting that while the Premiere and Premiere XL can tune over-the-air programming via antenna, in addition to digital cable, the TiVo Premiere XL4 is only suitable for cable (and FiOS) subscribers.

As an owner of the original Premiere, I’ve been contemplating a hard drive upgrade. But it may make sense to take this opportunity, given the recent price cut, to simply replace my unit with the more capacious, four tuner Premiere XL4. Especially with retail extenders expected later this year (not to mention a Netflix app update is just weeks away).

kindle-special-offers

Apparently I’m not the only one unimpressed by Amazon’s “dead author” Kindle screensavers. Yeah, I know I could hack my Kindle to display other images (like these)… but there’s nothing specific I’d like to view and do appreciate the random “playlist” approach. Which is why I voluntarily turned on Amazon’s “Special Offers.”

Opting into advertising pre-purchase saves one $30 – $40 off Kindle hardware. But, assuming you already have hardware, you can toggle Special offers on or off. Folks with subsidized hardware will have to pay the differential to remove advertisements, displayed as the screensaver and via a banner at the bottom of the home screen, while those who paid full retail can toggle ads on/off at will via their Amazon Kindle management webpage (as shown above). That was news to me and, for the moment, I’ve decided to run the ads for some visual variety.

kindle-ad

roku-hd1

Just last month we reported that a new “Roku HD” SKU had hit the FCC, and today I found it nestled amongst the Roku 2 XD and XS models at Walmart. As the lowest priced Roku to grace store shelves ($60), I’m sure casual shoppers on a budget seeking to fulfill their Netflix or Pandora needs will be quite satisfied with the 720p streamer. However, folks in the know may be slightly baffled with Roku’s branding… as they’re simultaniously pitching this new “Roku HD” at the same time they’re offering the similar “Roku 2 HD” online… for the same price. Not to mention, by my count, the Roku 2 is actually fourth generation hardware. And, so, perhaps this labeling change up suggests Roku will be following in Apple’s footsteps by dropping the numerical suffix.

As we wrote last month:

the new HD (model 2500) seems more akin to the LT (model 2400) than the 2 HD (model 3000). The most obvious visible changes are a return to three distinct composite inputs – something folks are more familiar than the single 3.5mm adapter they’ve been using lately. Further, the base of the new Roku 2 HD is purple. One potential cost saving measure includes doing away with the microSD slot, which is used to store additional channels and game data, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they’ve similarly dropped Bluetooth, utilized by their gaming remote.