Fox, NBC, CBS Sue Dish Network Over Service Skipping Ads

News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting Co., Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and CBS Corp. sued Dish Network Corp., alleging that their copyrights are infringed by Dish’s PrimeTime Anytime video-on-demand service that allows viewers to watch network programs commercial-free.

Dish created a “bootleg video-on-demand service,” which if not stopped “will ultimately destroy the advertising-supported ecosystem that provides consumers with the choice to enjoy free over-the-air, varied, high-quality primetime broadcast programming,” Fox said yesterday in a complaint in federal court in Los Angeles.

CBS and NBC sued Dish separately in the same court. The networks accused Dish of copyright infringement and asked for unspecified damages as well as court orders preventing its unauthorized distribution of their programs. Fox also sued Dish for breach of contract.

Dish, based in Englewood, Colorado, filed a separate complaint yesterday in federal court in New York against Fox, CBS, NBC and Walt Disney Co.’s ABC. Dish seeks a court ruling that it isn’t infringing copyrights.

“Consumers should be able to fairly choose for themselves what they do and do not want to watch,” David Shull, Dish senior vice president of programming, said in a statement. “Viewers have been skipping commercials since the advent of the remote control; we are giving them a feature they want and that gives them more control.”

CBS, NBC Lawsuits

In March, Dish introduced its Hopper set-top box, which contains, in addition to a subscriber-controlled digital video recorder, a Dish-controlled section of the hard drive that records the entire primetime broadcast schedule of the four major networks every night, according to the Fox complaint.

Dish operates the PrimeTime Anytime service so that the copied shows can be watched commercial-free with its Auto Hop feature, Fox said.

“We were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, Dish Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem,” Scott Grogin, a Fox spokesman, said in a statement.

Grogin declined to comment on Dish’s lawsuit in New York, where News Corp. is based.

Second-Day Viewing

Dish said in its complaint that the Auto Hop feature lets subscribers watch prime-time shows commercial-free the day after they are recorded, not on the night when they’re first shown on television.

“The lawsuits filed by the networks essentially argue that ‘consumers must watch commercials,’” Shull said today in a separate statement in response to the networks’ lawsuits. “We find that proposition absurd and profoundly anti-consumer.”

The Los Angeles cases are Fox Broadcasting v. Dish Network LLC, 12-4529; NBC Studios LLC v. Dish Network Corp., 12-4536; and CBS Broadcasting Inc. v. Dish Network Corp., 12-4551, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles). The New York case is Dish Network LLC v. American Broadcasting Cos., 12-04155, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).