Dish Could Score With Super Bowl Ad Rejection

CBS has announced the Super Bowl is sold out. Still, its CEO Leslie Moonves has said there’s a potential loophole: "obviously, if one of those movie companies wants to come in at the last minute and pay us $5 million or $6 million, we will find a place for you at halftime or somewhere like that.”

Certainly, the opportunity to offer the big money and still get in isn’t limited to Warner Bros. or Harvey Weinstein. If CBS can find space for them, there has to be an opening for IBM, Visa or McDonald’s.

Or Dish Network?

Money talks, right?

Not in that case. Dish could make an offer too good to refuse and it would be.

After Dish made hay out of CBS interfering with the editorial work of its CNET site last week, the Super Bowl offers it another opportunity to plug its Hopper DVR to loads of consumers. Not by spending $6 million, but with the minimal cost of sending out a press release.

Quick background: CNET was to give Dish a pair of awards at the Consumer Electronics Show for the latest iteration of its Hopper, but CBS HQ stepped in and put a stop to it. CBS and other networks have been enraged by the AutoHop feature that allows the automatic removal of all commercials in a show and are suing Dish hoping to thwart it.

Probably aware the press stands up for its own and detests censorship, Dish swiftly sent out a release saying it was “saddened” by CBS’s tactics and isn’t “afraid to stand up for consumer rights.” Loads of coverage followed. It's hard to believe people who knew nothing of the Hopper -- particularly the AutoHop -- didn't at least take a passing interest.

Dish, a wealthy company, relishes playing the role of the little guy and has tried to fuel that image with the Hopper. It would seem intuitive to go for a surefire second round of free publicity with the Super Bowl using what's hardly a new maneuver.

So as the hype about Super Bowl ads peaks, why wouldn’t it submit a spot for the Hopper to CBS, along with a $6 million check? It can’t lose. If CBS calls its bluff and takes the money, that's not going to empty Dish’s marketing budget and a Hopper plug during the big game could reach 110 million people.

Almost assuredly, though, CBS will reject the ad and Dish will have its press release screaming about the network’s heavy-handedness while touting its efforts to keep fighting for you. The statement is already written: “We at Dish embrace the consumer, embrace change and embrace technology. We believe that giving the customer what he or she wants is always a formula for success.” Dish CEO Joe Clayton delivered it in the fall after Moonves suggested CBS would drop its programming from Dish unless the Hopper was banished.

The ad rejection wouldn’t be the first time CBS has turned away a spot plugging a DVR. In 2000, it declined to air a TiVo spot promoting customers’ ability to create their own TV schedule through its recording option. The ad showed a TV executive making decisions, followed by his being tossed out the window. CBS felt it denigrated the TV business. 

If Dish considers but dismisses the ad-rejection strategy on grounds that it will look as if it is crassly seeking publicity, that’s understandable. The same goes if it feels the tactic is trite and unimaginative. It is.

For several years, GoDaddy.com relished submitting racy Super Bowl ads to networks surely knowing they’d be rejected – enjoying the publicity in the process – before getting an ad cleared. And, advocacy groups have excitedly publicized their rejections.

But there is so much media attention placed on Super Bowl advertising that Dish has an opportunity to get Hopper exposure it couldn’t buy. Considering there could be a widespread movement by angry programmers not to sell it ad space anymore at any price, that may be hard to turn down.  

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