There has been increasing unease between television networks and digital video recorder manufacturer DISH Network since the latter added a feature to its DVR Hopper, which allows users to skip ad breaks.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox, CBS and NBC have in the last week filed separate lawsuits against DISH Network claiming that the “Auto Hop” feature on its DVR breaches copyright by effectively creating a new programme.

Added two weeks ago, the feature allows viewers to record all the primetime TV programming of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in HD. Once recorded, viewers can use the Auto Hop to automatically skip over the programme’s commercials.

Network CEOs have made their disgust public, with Ted Harbert, CEO of NBC Broadcasting stating in the New York Times: “Just because technology gives you the ability to do something, does that mean you should? Not always.”

His view was supported by Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS, who said about the chairman of the DISH Network: “How does Charlie Ergen expect me to produce CSI?”

There has been talk that the feature was inserted as a negotiating tool and that DISH Network will remove it in return for networks charging lower fees to carry their programming.

It is unknown whether the courts will find in the networks’ favour, or take the view that the ability to skip an ad break on a DVR is no different to the fast forward button on a video recorder. Whatever the outcome, it will be interesting to see what happens when DISH Network’s broadcast rights come up for renewal.

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