The sensitive nature of media ownership came to the forefront at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, when Dish Network's latest version of its Hopper DVR was disqualified from CNET's "Best of CES" awards. The reason: CNET's parent, CBS, is suing Dish over the Hopper's commercial-skipping technology.
Dish used this year's CES show to introduce the Hopper with Sling, which allows consumers to watch live or recorded TV on devices both on and offline. CNET named the device a finalist for its "Best of CES" awards, praising it in a review that said the DVR "almost has it all."
But CNET pulled Dish as a finalist at the last minute. "The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp.," CNET said on its website. "We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies which we are in litigation with respect to such product."
Asked about the decision, a CBS spokesman pointed to CNET's statement and declined to comment further.
"We are saddened that CNET's staff is being denied its editorial independence because of CBS's heavy-handed tactics," Dish Network CEO Joe Clayton said in a statement. "This action has nothing to do with the merits of our new product. Hopper with Sling is all about consumer choice and control over the TV experience. That CBS, which owns CNET.com, would censor that message is insulting to consumers."
The broadcast networks, including CBS, are suing Dish Network over the Hopper, claiming the technology, which allows consumers to record broadcast programming and automatically skip over commercials during playback, violates copyright. Dish already won a small battle, when a judge denied Fox's request for an injunction.
The new Hopper with Sling allows subscribers to watch live and recorded TV anywhere on internet-connected tablets, smartphones and computers. It is also introducing an app that moves recorded programs to an iPad that can then be viewed without an internet connection.
Using Sling's technology essentially spares Dish the pain of securing "TV Everywhere" rights from each individual content provider, a laborious route that has slowed the pay-TV industry's effort to allow viewing across devices and hopefully fend off streaming-video upstarts.