Networks sue Dish Network to block AutoHop commercial skipper

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Two weeks after Dish (Nasdaq: DISH) unveiled an AutoHop feature for its Hopper multiroom DVR that automatically removes all commercials from primetime programming on the Big Four networks, Fox, CBS and NBC sued the satellite TV distributor.

The networks allege copyright infringement in the complaints, which were filed in U.S. District Court in New York and Los Angeles.

"Under the retransmission-consent agreement, Dish does not have the right to use Fox's signal to create a VOD service where Fox programming can be viewed for free," Fox wrote in its suit.

Disney's (NYSE: DIS) ABC is the only Big Four network that didn't sue the satellite company, which is using AutoHop to lure subscribers to its multiroom DVR, which contains six tuners and can store 1 terabyte of data.

Dish Network also filed a suit against ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for a declaratory judgment that AutoHop doesn't infringe on any copyrights.

Dish complains that the networks are raising retransmission-consent fees while expanding distribution to online video outlets such as Hulu, which the company says devalues their programming. A Dish subscriber won't see commercial-free versions of primetime shows until they activate the AutoHop feature with their remote controls. Look for Dish to argue that the technology is no different than giving a subscriber a DVR that contains a fast-forward button.

"Consumers should be able to fairly choose for themselves what they do and do not want to watch," Dish Network SVP of programming David Shull said in a prepared statement. "Viewers have been skipping commercials since the advent of the remote control; we are giving them a feature they want and that gives them more control," he added.

Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) CEO Glenn Britt and Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA) CEO David Zaslav both criticized AutoHop while speaking on a panel at The Cable Show in Boston earlier this week.

For more:
- see this release from Dish
The Hollywood Reporter has this story

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