May 11, 2012 at 8:01 PM ET
Dish Network's new Ad Hop feature will give its customers the option of skipping commercials on four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — when the shows are viewed the day after they're aired.
Ad Hop was announced Thursday by Dish, the second- largest satellite TV company behind DirecTV.
(Before we get any further, msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBCUniversal, a unit of Comcast, and Dish competes with Comcast for pay-TV subscribers.)
The commercial-skipping feature works with Dish Network's Hopper DVR, which includes three satellite TV tuners and a 2-terabyte hard drive that stores up to 2,000 hours of video. The Hopper, which came out in March, lets customers pause live TV in one room and continue watching it in another.
"Viewers love to skip commercials," said Vivek Khemka, vice president of Dish product management, in a press release. "With the Auto Hop capability of the Hopper, watching your favorite shows commercial-free is easier than ever before. It's a revolutionary development that no other company offers and it's something that sets Hopper above the competition."
There are probably very good reasons that "no other company offers" this kind of a service.
The move by Dish "seems destined to make it the most hated company in the television business," noted Forbes writer Eric Savitz. What could clearly be seen as a customer benefit runs so counter to the business models of the content providers that one can't imagine this sort of move will make them happy.
(We've asked NBC and CBS for comment, but have not heard back; we'll update this post if we do.)
DVR company TiVo tried something similar to "Ad Hop" in 1999, letting viewers skip ads, then reneged after network outrage. Whether that will happen this time remains to be seen: 13 years later, TV networks' main source of revenue — advertising — is hurting as consumers move to other choices, including watching TV on their computers, phones and tablets, and even shifting their screen habits to video sites like YouTube and Vimeo, not to mention piracy.