Media

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen: media innovation ‘always starts in litigation’

Ergen

Dish Network Co-founder and Chairman Charlie Ergen opened up about his company’s current legal troubles involving its Hopper DVR during a keynote interview at the D: Dive into Media conference tonight.

Dish is locked up in legal battles with media companies because of a feature it currently offers to customers that have one of its Hopper DVR boxes, which conveniently skip (or “AutoHop”) over the annoying commercial breaks between TV shows that have been recorded using the device. Media companies were even more enraged by Dish’s efforts to improve upon the technology with its latest true “TV Anywhere” initiative, featuring the upgraded the Hopper DVR with Sling box.

And while the AutoHop feature is more of a formality (most people fast forward through the commercial breaks anyways), News Corp., Comcast, and CBS all claim that the practice is illegal. Fortunately for consumers, Dish sees the conflict as a sign that its doing something right.

“It always starts with litigation,” Ergen said in reference to TV’s track record for bringing innovative technology to the forefront. He likened Dish’s situation to Hollywood’s early legal battles with VCR, which turned out to be a billion dollar source of revenue. Ergen even as far as to call Barry Diller’s new TV anywhere startup Aereo as a “genius” idea, while pointing to the service’s own legal troubles.

“I don’t hate ads… but I don’t want to put my head in the sand and pretend to watch (current commercials) that aren’t relevant,” Ergen said.

Ergen, who has a reputation for making bold statements, said the Hopper was a result of the current model of advertising’s failure to keep up with modern-day consumer viewing habits. The Hopper box, he said, actually was designed to provide ad targeting to customers while providing for a shorter commercial break between programs and higher revenues to media companies.

Higher revenues and airing fewer commercials wasn’t something that the media companies were interested in, he said.

Overall, Ergen compared his company to Indiana Jones movies, saying they’re always getting into trouble, finding themselves in compromising situations, and eventually having everything work out in the end.

Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see if the courts agree with Dish and its AutoHopping DVR boxes. Should Dish lose its legal battles, media companies could gain the right to outlaw any DVR maker from allowing customer to press the fast forward button during a commercial — a move that would ensure that the current state of TV advertising stay useless and irrelevant for years to come.