Citing an ambition to "defend the future of free, over the air television," News Corp.'s Fox has sued the' satellite-based Dish Network over its desire to use a service known as "Auto Hop" that allows viewers to record programs and black out the commercials that support them. For its part, Dish filed a suit against CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC.
In a motion for a jury trial filed in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California, Fox alleged the Auto Hop allows Dish to "create a bootleg video-on-demand service for all network prime-time programming," that takes the company well beyond its licenses to transmit Fox shows.
"We were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, Dish Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast-television ecosystem," Fox said in a statement. "Their wrongheaded decision requires us to take swift action in order to aggressively defend the future of free, over-the-air television."
Fox's effort is the first tangible maneuver by the big TV networks to quash EchoStar's device, one that many TV executives in past weeks have decried as a savage blow to a business that has already been rendered more fragile by technology that allows consumers to record programs but ignore the commercials that help support their economics. Executives at NBC, ABC, Fox and CW have also lashed out at Echostar's plan.
Dish filed a suit in New York asking for judgement on questions related to the Auto Hop service.
Despite the advent of new ways to watch TV programs, such as mobile tablets or online viewers, TV networks continue to make the bulk of their revenue from traditional broadcasts on the good ol' boob tube. Allowing viewers to record programs, watch them much later and avoid the ads altogether would crimp ratings , even if Dish's subscriber base does not constitute the large part of TV viewers.
In its court filing, Fox asked for an injunction barring Dish Network from distributing Fox programming in the manner allowed by Auto Hop, and for various damages.