Dish blinks in Hopper standoff with Disney -- or is it a wink?

The DVR that auto-skips broadcast ads has been deflecting networks' attacks in the courtroom, but Disney succeeds at the contract bargaining table instead -- by giving Dish landmark Internet content rights.

Dish's Auto Hop enable screen. Dish

Dish's protections around its contentious Auto-Hop feature on the Hopper remote DVR just started to crack.

In order to renew an agreement that will ensure Dish continues to carry Disney networks like ABC and ESPN and gain access to video on apps for the channels, the satellite television distributor agreed to disable the automatic ad-skipping feature on its Hopper network DVR for three days after a program is broadcast.

The deal was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

However, a release detailing the deal later Monday showed their deal goes much further than that. Dish also secured the rights to stream video from ABC, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN, and ESPN2 as part of an Internet-delivered television product.

That means watching Dish without a dish.

It's similar to the Dish World offering that lets customers stream international shows without a dish, simply by pulling up the service on the Internet. Customers could also watch the shows on Internet-connected TVs or through set-top boxes like Roku.

The Auto-Hop feature -- which lets customers automatically skip commercials on broadcast television recordings -- has been an embattled tactic, praised by consumer advocates as much as it has been criticized by television programmers. The networks say the ad-skipping feature threatens to destroy the advertising system that supports their content and that Dish doesn't have the right to tamper with advertising from broadcast replays for its own economic and commercial advantage.

Dish has argued that consumers have the right to privately watch shows anywhere, anytime.

So far, the networks haven't had much success halting the product in the courts, but Disney -- by using its high-demand channels as leverage -- seems to have found the successful route to crimping the practice.

(Disclosure: CNET is owned by CBS, which is one of the networks suing Dish over Hopper.)

However, it's an avenue that relies heavily on timing. Contracts between programmers like Disney and distributors like Dish over the terms for carrying the channels are long-term deals, with multiple years intervening between when they are signed and when they expire.

Updated at 5:26 p.m. PT: With official announcement.

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