Dish Hops Onto Fox’s Daytona 500 Coverage

Car sponsorship swerves around commercial ban
Jon Lafayette — Broadcasting & Cable, 2/23/2013 9:47:25 AM

The battle between Dish Network and the broadcasters over Dish’s ad-skipping DVR called The Hopper is going into high gear.

The broadcast networks have been rejecting Dish’s commercials for the Hopper, so Dish says it has come up with a way to get broadcast exposure during Fox’s high-profile coverage of the Daytona 500. The broadcasters object to some of the Hopper’s features, incluidng alllowing subscribers to skip commercials and play programming away from home.

Dish is sponsoring a car in the NASCAR race, Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Ford Fusion driven by Scott Speed. The car will be virtually ad free except for Dish’s Hopper logo.

“The world of technology moves fast, but Fox keeps trying to wave a yellow flag and put consumers under caution, attempting to slow their access to the best in TV entertainment,” Dish President and CEO Joe Clayton said in a statement. “The Hopper is in the pole position as the fastest in the consumer technology race. We are giving consumers what they want, when they want and where they want it. Fox is trying to hold up traffic. You can’t stop the future.”

Fox said that Dish Network’s move won’t affect the telecast. “Fox Sports will put all its energy into covering the Daytona 500 in the same extraordinary way we approach every event we televise,” the spokesman said.

On Thursday, Fox asked a California court to block Dish’s DVR because of a function that streams and records programming for out of home viewing. Fox claims the feature violates Dish’s distribution contract and copyright law.

In filing the new request, Fox was looking to capitalize on Dish’s announcement at last month of its Dish Anywhere mobile app, which allows the second-generation of Hooper set-tops to “watch live and recorded television anywhere on Internet-connected tablets, smartphones and PCs at no additional charge.”

Last year, the court turned down requests from injunctions against the Hopper’s auto hop feature, which allows subscribers to skip over all the commercials in recorded prime-time broadcast programming by touching a single button. The broadcasters contend that the ad-skipping feature would seriously damage their ability to finance the creation of the original programming consumers want.

“Everybody skips commercials, and if Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC think that’s illegal, well I guess that makes us a nation of outlaws,” continued Clayton. “We might as well make the No. 95 car the Dish fans’ getaway car in what is sure to be an exciting race on Sunday!”

But Dish Network subscribers in the Lubbock, Davenport, Huntsville, LaCrosse, and Roanoke markets won’t be able to see the race because the satellite distributor is out of contract with the local Fox affiliates there.

Dish added an endorsement from its driver. “I’m a big Dish fan and am excited to return to Daytona International Speedway Sunday with the Hopper riding shotgun,” said Speed. “Hopper is great for people like me — we can record more programming and take our favorite shows with us.”