This week marks the 71st anniversary of the first television ad ever -- a spot from the watch company Bulova that ran during an NBC telecast of a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies.
But instead of celebrating this moment, the broadcast networks are engaged in a legal battle with satellite broadcaster Dish Network’s latest innovation — a device that makes it easy to skip commercials on recorded shows from ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
Called the AutoHop, it can be used on recorded shows from the big four broadcast networks. It zaps the commercials from the shows, saving subscribers the hassle of fast-forwarding. The screen goes dark during a commercial break for a few seconds, and then the show resumes.
The broadcast networks claim it violates copyright law. On Monday, a New York Court is expected to determine whether the case between Dish and ABC, CBS and Fox will be heard in New York or Los Angeles.
Broadcast networks aren’t the only ones upset with satellite broadcaster Dish Network’s new AutoHop feature. A few politicians are also worried that they’ve wasted all the money they spend on TV advertising if the AutoHop catches on with Dish subscribers and other pay-TV companies around the nation.
At a hearing on the future of video held by the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology last week, Rep.John D. Dingell(D-Mich.) expressed concern that the AutoHop would make it harder to for politicians to reach voters.
“The Hopper potentially limits the ability of every member of this subcommittee and every one of our challengers to reach constituents with ads to help them to make up their minds on election day,” Dingell said to Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen. “I hope you understand my skepticism about Dish’s latest offering.”
For more on the AutoHop and the fight brewing over its future, please see our story in Monday’s Los Angeles Times.