Anybody able to observe modern media knows that the ad break on television is on the way out. This has both positive and negative connotations, ranging from more product placement in TV shows to the fact that soon every YouTube video that racks up 100 views will start having a thirty second ad placed in front of it.
But, understandably, major broadcast networks don’t like the idea that huge numbers of viewers don’t watch the ads at all. So when Dish introduced the AutoHop feature, represented by an adorable kangaroo, their lawyers got ready for a ‘roo hunt.
Unfortunately for the networks, said lawyers are turning out to be less like Teddy Roosevelt and more like Elmer Fudd.
The first round has decidedly gone to Dish, as a federal judge rejected a preliminary injunction to shut AutoHop down altogether. Fox took the decision with all the class and grace one might expect from the network airing American Idol:
“We are gratified the court found the copies Dish makes for its AutoHop service constitute copyright infringement and breach the parties’ contract,” the company said in a statement. “Dish is marketing and benefiting from an unauthorized VOD [video on demand] service that illegally copies Fox’s valuable programming.”
At issue, as you may have guessed, is whether Dish is making “copies” of advertising-free shows, or whether the technology only allows skipping. Dish argues that the ads are still there, just skipped, not deleted.
Of course, a lot of this is actually moot. Ratings are so low it’s impossible to get canceled these days unless literally nobody is watching. The two highest rated shows on television are football and The Walking Dead. What we’re really seeing is the broadcast networks struggling to establish a new identity in the face of changing technology, and that argument is going to get a lot more intense once white space broadband is cleared and the affiliates suddenly find themselves wondering whether they should become ISPs.