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DirecTV sitting on TV commercial-skipping technology

Satellite provider's chief points out that the company bought technology similar to Dish's five years ago but says it hasn't seen a demand for it yet.

Like rival Dish, DirecTV has access to technology that could allow millions of subscribers to automatically skip TV commercials, but executives don't see much reason to offer it to consumers.

Mike White, CEO of largest satellite provider in the U.S., said at a media conference today that DirecTV bought the technology five years ago from a company called Replay TV but has not seen a reason to offer it to consumers, according to a Reuters account.

"We haven't chosen to use it," White said at the Reuters Global Media and Technology Summit in New York. "It's not clear to me there's a raging demand from consumers for it." However, he said the company will study consumer and legal reaction to the technology.

Similar ad-skipping technology is at the center of a host of lawsuits filed last month between Dish and the major television networks. The networks accuse Dish of copyright infringement and breach of contract by transmitting their programs in such a way that allows viewers to watch them without paid commercials. However, Dish claims it doesn't violate copyright because it does not alter the broadcast signal; viewers have the ability to skip the ads, but they are not deleted.

Dish's Auto Hop feature, which was introduced earlier this year as part of a high-definition DVR called the Hopper, uses ad-skipping technology that is embedded in the device. Once turned on, the technology will skip all the advertising that has been recorded on TV shows that air over broadcast TV channels. So far, Dish has limited the technology to broadcast TV channels only.

Broadcasters say the technology could destroy the industry since program owners need the advertising revenue to help cover the cost of their shows.