DISH Modifies Prime Time Anytime & Auto-Hop (To Defuse Broadcaster Wrath)


DISH Network has rolled out an update to their well received Hopper DVR that, among other things, seems to respond directly to broadcaster concerns of an unlicensed on demand service that has led to a multitude of lawsuits.

If you recall, the Hopper incorporates a consumer friendly Prime Time Anytime feature to automate the recording of prime time network programming, with shows retained 8 days. Building upon that functionality, DISH then introduced Auto Hop commercial skip functionality… which, of course, the broadcasters did not respond well to.

To possibly head off or limit the pending legal action, DISH has tweaked both these services to require a bit more user interaction and to enable more granular control. First, instead of automatically recording a week of programming from the four big networks, customers can now specify which networks and which days (see above). Additionally, whereas the recordings were previously stored in an inaccessible portion of the Hopper’s hard drive, this content can now be managed like any other recording. Together, these two changes make the feature look a bit more like a traditional DVR – rather than an on demand service. At least, we can presume, that is DISH’s hope. Finally, the Auto Hop commercial skip feature now has a “No Thanks” as the default response (see below right), requiring additional user intervention and once again (hopefully) proving this isn’t an automated solution but something initiated by consumers. But time (and the courts) will tell if these changes are sufficient…

(Thanks, Scott & Satellite Guys!)

20 thoughts on “DISH Modifies Prime Time Anytime & Auto-Hop (To Defuse Broadcaster Wrath)”

  1. While I felt that the original PrimeTime Anytime and AuthoHop functions were legal, these changes made by DISH to the Hopper should prove to everyone (especially the courts) that these functions are indeed legal.

  2. I presume the day of the week selection actually avoids recording things (most people could presumably uncheck Friday and Saturday nights without losing anything), but I wonder how the channel selection works. Does it actually prevent the channel from being recorded? Or does it somehow flag a program number in an MPTS as valid/invalid? Sorry, I don’t know how channels are combined on frequencies (or not) on Satellite…

  3. My understanding is it still records the entire local transponder mux. So if you unchecked FOX the datastream for that transponder is still on the hard drive, although the programs don’t display.

    I am hoping in the future you will be able to select you other HD locals that may be available in your area from DISH such as PBS, CW, Univision and My Network TV.

  4. It is cute that DISH is trying to put lipstick on the pig.

    But if I were in the ad-supported content business, I can’t see why these tweaks would make me back off on either the legal front or on the retrans agreement front. (This ain’t just about the courts.)

    If DISH were sane about finding a win here, they’d try to find a maneuver to get away with killing AutoHop while keeping Prime Time Anytime.

  5. I still have an RCA PROSCAN VCR that automatically fast forwards commercials on programs i recorded from any channel, local network, or cable! why dont they make a DVR that will record the program with commercials,but that you can set it up to automactically fast forward through the commercials if you dont want to see them? And if you do want to see the ads then you just enable it to see all the ADS?

  6. Chucky,

    It was legal before and now with this “lipstick” its even more legal. So legal in fact that even the Blindest judge will see that this in no way infringes on anyones rights (wallets yes, rights no.)

    If the networks don’t pull their lawsuits and decide to go to work, they are going to look stupid when they lose and its only going to give DISH more publicity for their product.

  7. they need to make it illegal to put those ADS covering my tv screen to promote there tv programs they are ruining tv for me! has anyone noticed the ads have gotten larger?check out TNT TBS USA,for examle they cover the whole bottom 3rd of my 55” screen!! Isnt there anyway to stop this? why is it ok for the networks and cable tv channels to do this? dont those people who work there watch their own programs, why dont the tv actors tell them to stop ?,cant they see it s ruining the show? freaking idiots!!!

  8. Scott, we’ll find out… ;)

    It’s worth noting DISH has a unique litigation strategy — one we’ve seen before with TiVo (which didn’t pan out). Sued for one thing, make technical changes to hopefully no longer infringe (in TiVo’s case), and expect to be let off. Let’s say the original implementation wasn’t hunky dory, but is now. Shouldn’t the broadcasters be compensated for that period of time? Anyway, this along with the Aereo case will be quite interesting to monitor.

  9. “It was legal before and now with this “lipstick” its even more legal.”

    Those old legal products are boring. I want my products with even more legality. The Hopper: Now It’s Extra Legal!

    Why drive at 50mph in a 55mph zone when you could drive at 35mph?

    “its only going to give DISH more publicity for their product.”

    If the game here is publicity, they’re making their tweaks in the absolute wrong direction. Why not bring AutoHop beyond just the broadcast networks to basic cable too? And why not get rid of that annoying “wait ’til the next day for AutoHop” restriction? Tweaks like that would get them even more publicity.

  10. Chucky,

    Please stop making crap up. The automatic skipping of commercials has already been found to be legal as has the recording of television show.

    There is NOTHING illegal about PrimeTime Anytime or AutoHop.

  11. “The automatic skipping of commercials has already been found to be legal as has the recording of television show.”

    As I assume you are well aware, (though perhaps you aren’t), there are some caveats to those categoric assertions.

    “There is NOTHING illegal about PrimeTime Anytime or AutoHop.”

    I have no idea if DISH will prevail in the courts or not. And neither do you. There are some conflicting precedents to guide the way in this new territory. (Though my guess is that they’ll have a much rougher path in the courts than Aereo, which I’ve always thought was semi-likely to slip through.)

    But, again, this isn’t just about the courts. Retrans agreement expiries are where they hit a much bigger wall, IMHO. Can’t comskip content you can’t get.

    Of course, if all publicity is good publicity, then this is win/win…

  12. I haven’t read the litigation… but the angles of attack will be interesting. I assume some will suggest DISH broke or overstepped their contractual broadcast powers. I also agree with Chucky that even if they don’t pay now, they’ll end up paying later. Regardless, it’s good stuff as a spectator (and soon to be Verizon FiOS customer, once again).

  13. In my opinion, if dish cuts out the commercials from the recorded program, then they might be in trouble. The advertisers are going to want to know how many people are cutting out commercials and want that number subtracted from the ratings so they can pay a lower rate. The court could say that dish is substantially altering the copyrighted broadcast without permission which results in a loss of revenue to the networks.

    If they offer the ability to just skip over the commercial after it’s recorded then that should be OK.

  14. I’m not so sure AutoHop is legal. It’s Dish software that’s changing the display of the broadcast to cut out the commercials. Does having a user make a yes/no option on the automated software really significantly change whether the software is altering the display of the broadcast to exclude specific content? The Dish software is the one cherry picking the content. Something for the courts to figure out whether AutoHop violates copyright.

    Primetime Anytime on the other hand seems to be one giant long recording session for certain channels. Only thing I could see is that it might break some sort of contractual obligations, but DVR recording itself has been well established as legal. Just because it’s longer and storing more content, wouldn’t really make a difference from my point of view.

    Should be interesting to see how this winds its’ way through the courts.

  15. what was decided in the Replay case? Replay pulled the offending commercial advance from their DVRs in future models.

  16. i wouldn’t call wikipedia an expert, but a quick google search came up with this I don’t see that anything with ReplayTV ever actually went through the courts.:

    “The lawsuit against SONICblue was stayed when the company filed for bankruptcy protection in March 2003. In August 2003, the ReplayTV 5500 series went on sale without the “Autoskip” and “Send Show” features though the features continued to be enabled on the earlier models.”

  17. It’s dvr, regardless if people want to skip the commercials and they didn’t allow that feature, then they will just fast forward through the commercials. If the networks did succeed and do away with auto hop then people will just fast forward. Doing away with that won’t get anyone that don’t want to watch commercials to watch them.

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