At the beginning of 2012, Dish Network launched its new digital video recorder called ‘The Hopper’, but only recently, on 10 May, an ‘auto hop’ application was added, which allows viewers to skip commercials that interrupt their recorded shows. The broadcasters claim ‘hopping’ is against the law because the device turns the recorded show into an unauthorised version of a program that is copyrighted. Fox said the legal effect of ‘The Hopper’ should be classified as ‘re-broadcasting’ and is therefore infringing the channels’ copyrights. Fox Spokesman Scott Goggin even added The Hopper could end up “destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem”.
Devices like these and the rise of online TV are seen as huge commercial threats for traditional television stations. If technology such as Dish’s top box were widely deployed, some industry experts believe that could mean the beginning of the end of advertising on non-live, prerecorded shows, which count – by far – for the most hours of mass audience television. It would send shockwaves through the advertising industry and broadcasters would lose millions, if not billions, in revenue. After all, who is going to pay for expensive television commercials if consumers can easily skip them?