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Dish Adds Auto Commercial-Skipping Feature

5/10/2012 04:58:31 PM Eastern

Orlando, Fla. -
Satellite-TV provider Dish used its
team summit here Thursday to announce the launch of a new commercial-skipping
feature for the "Prime Time Anytime" component of its Dish Hopper DVR system.

The new function, called Auto Hop,
will enable viewers to watch programs recorded via the Prime Time Anytime
feature in the Dish Hopper product to completely bypass commercials without the
need to use a remote skip button, provided they view the recordings after 1 a.m
EST the morning after they originally aired.

 The Hopper is Dish's whole-home DVR that was
first unveiled at International CES in January. The device includes a 2TB hard
drive and the aforementioned Prime Time Anytime feature which automatically
records all of the prime time programs carried by ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX network
affiliate stations every night and caches them for playback within an eight-day
period.

All of Dish's
previous DVR set-top devices have long had the ability to skip commercials
using a 30-second jump button, but that required the viewer to manually advance
the recording. The new system will play back a recorded program and
automatically "hop" over the commercials with no further action required from
the viewer.

In a conference
call with reporters Thursday, Dish CEO Joe Clayton said the company applied the
technology to Prime Time Anytime programming because that programming is
automatically recorded for Hopper viewers each night and because Dish viewer
surveys revealed that prime time network TV programming is the most watched
fare on their system.

In order to use
the system, viewers must manually opt in by selecting "Auto Hop" at the start
of playback.

The feature does
not work on live broadcasts and "at this time" will not be available beyond
prime time programming from the four major networks.

 Dish said it does not believe it is violating
any intellectual property rights of broadcasters or advertisers with the system
because, Dish does not touch the signal itself in any way and "Auto Hop is only
trying to do what consumers would already do with the 30-second button or the
fast forward button. We are just making it easier," said Vivek Khemka, Dish
product management VP.

He
explained that with Auto Hop, viewers can use the fast-forward or rewind button
to play back commercials if they want to because the recorded signal is not
altered.

Clayton said the
technology would allow Dish to expand the capability to other programming, "if we
so choose."

If programs are
played back prior to 1 a.m. the next morning, commercials will be played as
they normally would, although viewers would have the ability to skip over them
with the 30-second jump button or fast forward button.

Dish declined to
reveal exactly how the technology, which was developed by Dish sister company
EchoStar, recognizes and jumps over a commercial in the regular programming.

Clayton said he
did not expect the networks to impose any counter measures because "what we are
trying to do here is give the consumer what he wants. If they want to fight
that, it might be a fairly large sized battle."

Similarly,
he said he doesn't know if broadcasters would start rewording their
retransmission agreements with Dish to prevent the commercial skipping
mechanism, adding that initial concern over the implementation of the Prime
Time Anytime system was assuaged once broadcasters realized that their programs
"got more visibility."

Asked if Dish
would continue to find network TV advertising a valuable proposition if the
commercial skipping feature became more pervasive, Clayton said: "There are
lots of ways to advertise."

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