"The commercials are not erased or deleted." Comforting thoughts to TV advertising and selling executives? This phrase was used a number of times by Dish Network in its recently revised legal filing against the networks.
This came in light of Dish's big and controversial AutoHop feature in its new "Hopper" DVR, which can record three hours of prime-time programming from the four networks without commercials.
But -- no surprise -- the commercials are actually still there if viewers want to see them. Actually, Dish says viewers always had the choice.
Dish claimed it doesn't alter the broadcast signals when it comes to recording those signals via its Hopper DVR, and in that regard it is perfectly in accordance with retransmission agreements it has signed with the broadcast networks.
The satellite TV provider went on to note that using the Hopper will increase the sampling of TV shows for networks, giving them what, in theory, they value more: higher overall viewership. But that is technically a secondary aim; the first is to pull the most advertising revenue.
Higher overall viewership from DVR playback has been used by TV executives as a positive, against what has been a long-held belief that broadcast ratings erosion is inevitable. Every since viewers started using DVRs in the late 1990s, research has shown that they increase TV viewing, even as studies also admit there is more commercial skipping.
More from Dish Network's amended filing: "With AutoHop, a viewer has the option to efficiently fast-forward through commercials at the touch of a button when beginning playback of certain recorded Primetime Anytime shows on the day after the show originally airs, or later." (Emphasis Added).
This is key. Viewers have the option not to use the AutoHop feature. They can watch as many commercials as humanly possible.
What Dish doesn't have are specific agreements with the advertisers themselves in this regard, at least not concerning nationally delivered commercials on broadcast networks. (Dish does have other business with marketers, such as advanced advertising efforts and trials.)
Dish says its ultimate aim is making it easier for viewers, its main source of income, to do what they already do. Not automatically, but more of a manual option. Advertisers, on the other hand, have no options -- automatic or manual -- when it comes to AutoHop. Dish might say: “Make better commercials for our now better-enabled customers.”