NEW YORK -- CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves blasted satellite broadcaster Dish Network’s new Auto Hop feature that allows consumers to more easily block commercials from recorded programming.
“They can’t just take our signal and change it and put on a black spot where our commercials were,” Moonves said during a Wednesday morning news conference to unveil the network’s new fall schedule.
Moonves joined executives from Comcast Corp.'s NBC and News Corp.'s Fox in criticizing the Dish feature, which lets customers block commercials from recorded shows that have aired on broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox during the previous day.
Although consumers with digital video recorders can already fast-forward through commercials of recorded shows, Auto Hop takes it a step further. The screen goes black when a commercial break appears. A few seconds later, the program returns. The Auto Hop feature can’t be used on a show during the same day that it’s being broadcast, or on live event programming, such as a sporting event, that has been recorded.
Dish is heavily marketing the feature and even bought a full-page ad in Thursday’s USA Today to promote it. The company also seems to have timed the hyping of the commercial-zapping device to coincide with the “upfronts,” the week the broadcast networks are all announcing their fall schedules to advertisers.
CBS’ Moonves suggested that if Dish continues to push the Auto Hop to customers, his network will respond by not making its programming available to Dish, which has over 14 million subscribers.
“How does Charlie Ergen expect me to produce ‘CSI’ without ads?” Moonves said, referring to the chairman of Dish Network Corp.
Further annoying the broadcasters is the fact that Dish is not offering the Auto Hop feature for cable channels. Moonves suggested that if Dish goes forward with selling the Auto Hop feature, it could risk losing access to CBS content down the road.
“There are obvious things that can be done and we’re looking at that,” Moonves said.
Earlier in the week, Dish spokesman Bob Toevs said the satellite broadcaster “believes that consumers deserve a choice when it comes to television viewing, and Dish’s Auto Hop feature is all about choice. Viewers have been skipping commercials since the advent of the remote control. We are simply making it easier.”
While Moonves isn’t thrilled about Dish’s new gadget, he also was not worried that it would actually get off the ground.
“Too much is being made of it,” Moonves said. “It’s Charlie being Charlie.”