Dish defends ad-skipping DVR, pay TV peers throw it under bus

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If Dish Network was expecting an “I am Spartacus” level of peer support for its new ad-skipping DVR, it won’t find it at this week’s Cable Show. And aggrevated broadcasters shouldn’t be looking to hear an apology and retraction from Dish chief Charlie Ergen, either.

On Tuesday, Glenn Britt, chairman and CEO of the No. 4 pay TV service provider in the U.S., Time Warner Cable, became the first executive from the multi-channel industry to speak out about a controversial new feature in Dish’s Hopper digital video recorders. This feature filters out commercials from the recordings of broadcast-network shows.

“The dual stream of advertising and subscription fees has been great for content providers, and we don’t want to destroy one of those revenue streams,”Britt told a Cable Show audience, which included reporters from publications including Ad Age. “Subscription prices will go up or less content will be made.”

Also read: How broadcasters could have stopped Dish’s Hopper

Mark Greatrex, chief marketing officer for another top cable operator, Cox Communications, also weighed in: “As a marketer it’s not particularly helpful to bring that much uncertaintly into the marketplace.”

During upfront presentations to advertisers last week, virtually every broadcast network chief took verbal aim at the feature, with Fox and NBC even pledging not to let Dish run ads for it on their channels.

But speaking to Associated Press Tuesday, Vivek Khemka, Dish Network VP of product management for Dish, said they’ve got it all wrong.

By recording every minute broadcasted in prime time by ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, the Hopper is actually enabling consumers to watch more television. “It’s a win-win for consumers and the networks,” he said.

Of course, it’s hard to see how the networks are “winning” when a key aspect of their monetization model has been stripped away.

The other part of that model is the relatively new revenue stream created by broadcast networks demanding retransmission fees from the cable, satellite and telco TV service providers who offer their signals to subscribers.

With Dish trying to grow its current subscriber count of around 14 million, offering consumer-friendly features that let users skip ads probably helps. But all DVRs provided by multi-channel operators feature some level of commercial-skipping ability (it’s simply called fast-forward).

Questions that remain unanswered:

By throwing a Molotov Cocktail directly at broadcasters, might Dish be looking for a negotiating hedge against the Big Four Networks to help control fast-rising retransmission costs? And if so, might Dish have expected a little support from its peers in the multi-channel business?

If the answer turns out to be “yes” to the latter, it sure hasn’t received that support yet.

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