Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) has developed a $30 "Digital Off Air Module" for its Hopper multiroom DVR that allows subscribers to receive broadcast signals via over-the-air antennas.
The satellite TV provider could use the modules as leverage in its battle with Fox, CBS (NYSE: CBS) and other broadcasters that are asking federal courts to force Dish to disable an AutoHop function on the DVR that automatically removes all commercials from primetime programs on the Big Four networks. The modules connect to the Hopper via a USB connection.
In September, CBS Corp. president Leslie Moonves threatened to pull CBS-owned stations from Dish unless the company agreed to disable AutoHop. "Hopper cannot exist, Moonves said at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference. Smaller station group owners have also threatened to pull their stations from Dish.
The Digital Off Air Module will only work for Dish subscribers who live in areas where they can receive over-the-air signals, which pose some challenges for Dish, which is popular in rural areas. But the modules could help some subscribers that lose local TV channels as result of retransmission-consent disputes that Dish has with local broadcasters.
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