News Corp’s Fox Broadcasting has asked a federal appeals court to overrule a district judge and halt Dish Network’s AutoHop ad-skipping service that it says threatens television’s advertising system.
Dish’s PrimeTime Anytime allows subscribers to automatically record the entire prime-time line-up of all four major US broadcast networks every night. It’s similar to a VoD service, which Dish can only provide under its contract if it doesn’t allow viewers to fast-forward through commercials, Paul Smith, a lawyer for Fox, argued to a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals at a hearing in California.
Instead of disabling fast-forwarding through the ads, the AutoHop service allows subscribers to skip them entirely when they watch the recorded shows, Smith said. Fox alleges that the Dish services breach their licence agreement and undermine Fox’s business selling shows online through Apple’s iTunes and Amazon.com.
“This is an unlicensed service that competes with a licensed service that we get paid for,” Smith told the panel of judges.
Fox alleges the AutoHop service threatens the ad-supported television model because it diminishes the value of commercials, which are the main source of financing for primetime programming. The ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliate associations, as well as the National Association of Broadcasters, filed arguments in support of Fox’s appeal.
Circuit Judge Raymond Fisher, who said he records “Masterpiece Theater” and Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” asked Smith to explain how this practice of creating a library of television shows to watch at some later time is any different from what Fox accuses Dish of doing.
Smith sargued that it’s a fundamentally different process when a viewer decides what to record as opposed to a service that automatically records blocks of programmes every night.
Dish’s lawyer, Joshua Rosenkranz, told the panel that Fox didn’t complain about PrimeTime Anytime until Dish introduced AutoHop four and a half months later. The Dish lawyer also argued that the satellite-TV provider’s subscribers are already paying for Fox’s programmes and that Fox can’t argue that it’s unfair if a subscriber who misses a show doesn’t pay for it again to watch it.