Dish Network’s Hopper has scampered its way out of trouble again. The popular DVR’s Auto Hop function, which allows it to automatically skip over commercials spots in primetime programming, has repeatedly put Dish Network in the crosshairs of Fox broadcasting, along with that of CBS, and NBCUniversal. But Fox’s second motion for a rehearing of its original lawsuit filed last May was recently struck down in a unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
The issue at hand is Dish Network’s Primetime Anytime feature, which allows subscribers to record primetime viewing from the big four broadcasting networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, and then auto-skip commercials after 1 AM the morning after air date. Much like their current Battle Royale with Aereo, which has managed to climb all the way to the Supreme Court, the networks have argued that the Auto Hop feature is illegal for a host of reasons, from copyright infringement to breach of contract.
Seemingly undeterred by all three strikes in an attempt to put an injunction on the Auto Hop feature, Fox put out a statement last week saying, “This ruling was based on a factual record from more than a year ago. Now that we have gathered more evidence, we are confident that we will ultimately prevail on all of our claims.”
On the opposing side, council for Dish Network said of the ruling, “This is a victory for American consumers, and we are proud to have stood by (Dish Network’s) side in this important fight over the fundamental rights of consumer choice and control.”
The latest ruling is just one of a slew of highly publicized losses the big four have incurred while trying to reign in attempts from smaller companies to change the paradigm of primetime viewing. The battle with Aereo, which allows users to watch network broadcasts streamed to computers and mobile devices over small antennae, has been waged all over the country. And the networks have made similar attempts to stop Dish Network’s Slingbox feature from allowing their broadcasts to go mobile.
Successful or no, Fox and its compatriots have pockets big enough to file virtually as many lawsuits as they see fit, waging a war of attrition against those who attempt to transmit their programming outside of their own specified parameters. And while the American people seem to be nothing more than bystanders in the affair, one has to wonder if all of this bad press is having a negative affect on the networks from a PR standpoint.
At least one group is happy about this new era of TV litigation mania: lawyers.