Cable providers and networks insist that, should AutoHop, a technology that allows viewers to skip through commercials with the click of a button, enter the marketplace, it would all but destroy the commercial television “ecosystem.”
To be clear, AutoHop is not Tivo or a regular DVR feature where you wait to fast-forward through commercials. Rather, it’s a one-click-and-they’re-gone ad-skipping tool for all pre-recorded programs the day after they air. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Dish Network is currently locked in a lawsuit with broadcasters — Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS — over whether it can deploy AutoHop. (For now, it appears Dish is coming out ahead, according to the Los Angeles Times).
If Dish could deploy the service, it would be a boon for the company as it continues to compete with cable television providers, which have been fighting to woo customers even as other pay-for services emerge on the scene, including Netflix, Apple TV, and Hulu+ (which is partially owned by NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company and Fox parent company News Corp.).
Mobiledia’s Joe Arico has a good exploration of what the ramifications could be if AutoHop is allowed into the market. He writes:
Auto Hop will likely turn from an isolated problem to a widespread issue if the court rules in Dish's favor. Other providers are likely to copy the company, causing headaches for networks across the country as they're forced to review their strategy.
He then concludes:
Customers may be excited about the prospect of a technology like Auto Hop allowing them to skip commercials. But what they may not realize is that skipping commercials greatly disturbs the traditional broadcast model by devaluing the very content that makes TV valuable to advertisers, and could begin to affect the type of programming they see on their favorite channels.
In short: A lot of the things you probably don’t like about television programming (product placement and cheap-to-produce reality TV) are likely to be more of what you’ll see as ads surface less and less during programming hours.
So, is AutoHop the death of television as we know it? Not yet. But as consumers continue to crave ways to dodge ads, they may just end up killing, at least for a time, the very thing they love to consume: Quality programming.
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