Dish’s Hopper DVR technology, as you may have heard, includes a feature that’s making the TV networks and the corporations that own them very nervous: it allows automated skipping of TV commercials. Sure, most DVRs today allow users to fast-forward through ads, or include that wonderful “skip 30 seconds” button, but the Hopper take it even further, stripping out the commercials automatically.
Dish has already been sued by Fox, CBS and other TV networks, in a replay of the court cases in the 1980s in which Hollywood challenged the legality of the VCR model. Now, with the launch of the second version of Hopper this week, Dish has debuted a new commercial in which it proclaims the death of TV commercials:
Will this really kill TV’s business model? Well, the VCR certainly didn’t. And Dish doesn’t exactly have universal market penetration. Still, I can understand why this makes the content providers uneasy.
It seems though, that the tech press is burying the lead when it comes to the Hopper controversy. To me the new version, officially known as Dish’s Hopper with Sling Whole-Home HD DVR, does something even more game-changing than skip commercials: It allows users to watch both live TV and content from their DVRs on mobile devices, using the Slingbox technology that Dish bought a few years ago.
So if you’re on a business trip, you get home from dinner at 11 p.m., and that night’s Justified is right there on your iPad. Or you can watch the news while coming home on a train.
If every cable and satellite company gains that functionality, it’s huge, and could change the way people watch TV even more than the original DVR did. That to me is much more important than whether or not we ever again see the Geico Gekko.