Dish Network, as you probably know, is a satellite dish delivered TV service that represents a great alternative to Verizon and Comcast locally and other cable providers elsewhere, especially in more remote areas where cable networks are spotty. Dish seems to have, more or less, equivalent content as competitors, but in the past there have been occasional nasty snits over Dish’s non-offering of a major league sports team’s games in its home market. Plus, recently, AMC, the cable network that broadcasts MadMen, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and other great original series has been having a contract dispute with Dish Network over being dropped from its service. It always comes down to dollars and cents. Dish wants more from AMC to carry its programming. Perhaps they deserve it. However, not based on Dish’s other current controversy and marketing decision.
Dish has a feature-rich new DVR (digital video recorder) called The Hopper. The Hopper does a great many things. Its main claim to fame is that it enables a lot of multi-set and even multi-device viewing and recording of separate programming with the ability to remotely control by smartphone. The Hopper puts a tremendous amount of user-friendly control in the hands of Dish Network viewers, so they can watch what they want, when they want, where they want, and on what player or tv they want. So far, so great.
One of those viewer controls happens to be the ability to skip commercials altogether. In other words, watch an hour of programming in say 45 minutes, sans all the breaks for advertising sponsors. It is a feature that has long been talked about, but represents a type of third rail in the broadcast industry. Advertising helps pay for programming. Advertising helps make networks, including Dish, profitable. Advertising helps the overall economy by helping businesses sell their products and services. Why would you ever want to do anything to disturb it?
So is Dish’s answer to charge networks like AMC a lot more to broadcast their programming over their satellite network? If so, and Dish viewers can zap commercials carried by AMC and other networks, how are those networks going to earn more to pay Dish? Sounds like a proverbial house of cards.
Amazingly, Dish has no problem itself with advertising. It has put together a very entertaining campaign to promote The Hopper using a Boston-accented family of humorous characters who effectively and entertainingly extoll Hopper’s many features including the ad-skipping one. This spot, in particular, is both funny and a classic have-your-cake-and-eat-it moment for Dish. They clearly understand what they are doing, they are self-satisfied by their own cleverness, and they figure it is someone else’s problem.
The other networks are not taking this lying down, though. Most have voiced serious concerns. The Wall Street Journal noted a lot of upset among top execs, who are planning action.
Personally, I don’t think The Hopper is going to be the death of tv advertising or advertising period (Dish is also running commercial-skipping Hopper radio spots, as well as print and social media ads). But I think enabling The Hopper’s commercial-skipping technology is a bad business decision. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.