Dish Network: 'Outlaws,' Mending Fences, And Real-Time Data For Advertisers

Is Dish Network making a peace offering to marketers, possibly leading to  a more valuable real-time ad buying service?

The AutoHop feature in Dish's  Hopper set-top box -- which lets viewers fast- forward through commercials --  has drawn the ire of many TV marketing and media executives since it was introduced last year.

Now the satellite programming service is looking to build a tracking service to allow its viewers  -- and perhaps advertisers -- to see what other Dish users are watching, according to Bloomberg News. That could lead to real-time buying --  which has caught the fancy of the digital online world with video ad networks, demand-side platforms and others.

Dish hasn't wavered from its position on AutoHop, but Warren Schlichting, its senior VP of media sales and analytics, said he hoped the tracking initiative also could improve the company's relationship with advertisers.

Early in 2012, media executives had groused that the new AutoHop feature was not in their best interest. For example, John Muszynski, chief investment officer of Starcom Media Group Exchange, told MediaDailyNews he had major problems going ahead with advertising-related projects for Dish.

Will this change? Business conflicts can always be resolved, with money and other arrangements adjusted and offered as recompense.

Joe Clayton, chief executive officer of Dish Network, said  networks shouldn't complain about commercial fast-forwarding -- because, well, everyone is doing it. He joked at CES that the activity is being portrayed as "illegal, but if that is the case, we are all ‘outlaws.’”

Joking aside, if  Dish Network agreements with broadcast  and cable networks explicitly say that a  distributor can't provide customers with a "one commercial-cancellation-button-of-a-complete-primetime-schedule," that would seem to be an issue.

It has been no secret that program providers -- cable, satellite or telco -- have long been providing fast-forward buttons on remotes that can naturally be used on both program content and  commercials. So you can see where Dish might be coming from.

What's the lure now? Maybe it's to  mend fences with more TV digital  data --  especially valuable set-top-box data, perhaps in real time. There's a trove of valuable information that TV advertisers and media agencies still clamor for from Dish and others. And Dish has some 14 million TV customers, one of the biggest owners of that set-top  data.

What does this mean to advertisers -- the financial supporters of the current TV model? Many TV interests have leverage. Nobody wants a Wild West business environment. But everyone has a posse.


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