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Dish Hopper: Marketer’s Friend or Foe?

February 20, 2013

By Marni Gordon, vice president of committees and conferences, ANA

Dish Network‘s Dish Hopper DVR has a feature called AutoHop which gives consumers the choice to skip all commercials with the push of a single button on a remote control.  Dish Network launched an ad campaign last week promoting the death of commercials which features the “Boston guys” who pay their last respects to commercials in the spot.

All  the major networks have sued.  Walt Disney Company’s ABC is seeking a preliminary injunction to shut down the feature.  News Corp’s Fox, CBS, and Comcast’s NBC Universal have filed separate suits  claiming Dish violated copyrights and breached retransmission agreements.  While Dish Network’s Hopper had a high-profile presence at this year’s Consumer Electronic Show, their latest version of its Hopper DVR was disqualified from CNET's "Best of CES" awards. The reason was that CNET's parent, CBS, is suing Dish over the Hopper's commercial-skipping technology.

While the AutoHop technology clearly could have a negative impact on advertising revenue for the networks, there is also a cause for concern among marketers.  According to a recent survey among ANA members, 65% of respondents felt that Dish Network’s Hopper DVR poses a threat to their company.  Some of the concerns expressed include that skipping commercials directly impacts the brand’s ability to quickly generate reach, the inability to recover lost ad exposures, and that this technology encourages consumers to skip ads which undermines the advertising business model.  In addition, some respondents noted that while Dish is still small relative to other cable and satellite providers, the technology and capability to skip commercials sets the wrong precedent.  Note that the respondent base for this survey was about twenty members of the ANA Media Leadership Committeee, so results are qualitative, but directional.

However, Dish Network is trying to overcome their “anti-ad” reputation among the advertising community and recently launched an interesting innovation through Dish Hopper called “What’s Hot Now”.  This feature allows Dish Hopper users to see what other Dish customers are watching and then can choose to flip channels to the most popular shows.  “What’s Hot Now” collects real-time data through set-top boxes and could potentially provide a new way to buy and sell advertising.

It will continue to be interesting to watch Dish Network as their recent innovations have potential to revolutionize and disrupt the ad industry if their subscriber base reaches critical mass.

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