Fox asks court to block sales of Dish Hopper with Sling

Fox Broadcasting contends that Dish doesn't have the right to make "bootleg, commercial-free, on-demand programming available over the Internet and on mobile devices via Sling."

Dan Farber
2 min read
The Dish Hopper with Sling. Dish Network

The battle between Fox Broadcasting and Dish Network continues with an amended filing asking Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court for California's Central District to once again issue a preliminary injunction to block sales of Dish Network's Hopper DVR. The amended lawsuit involves technology introduced with the updated Dish Hopper with Sling, which began shipping to customers on February 11.

In November 2012, Gee rejected Fox's request for a preliminary injunction to disable the Dish Hopper AutoHop technology, which was first introduced last year. Fox appealed that ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In addition to Fox, CBS (the parent company of CNET), NBC (Comcast) and ABC (Disney) have also filed separate suits against Dish over its AutoHop feature. The networks maintain that the ad-skipping feature will destroy the advertiser-supported ecosystem and that Dish doesn't have the right to tamper with advertising from broadcast replays for its own economic and commercial advantage.

Fox maintains that features in the Dish Hopper with Sling that allow users to watch programming over the Internet and on mobile devices via the Sling technology violate the contract between the two companies. Hopper Transfers lets users move TV recordings from the Hopper with Sling to an iPad for offline viewing. With the Sling technology, live and recorded TV programming can be "place-shifted," that is, viewed on Internet-connected devices from any location.

"Paying Dish for a satellite television subscription does not buy anyone the right to receive Fox's live broadcast signal over the Internet or to make copies of Fox programs to watch 'on the go,' because Dish does not have the right to offer these services to its subscribers in the first place," Fox said in its amended filing.

Fox's amended filing further contends (PDF):

By making its bootleg, commercial-free, on-demand programming available over the Internet and on mobile devices via Sling, Dish is usurping rights it never negotiated for and does not possess, in order to compete unfairly with authorized providers such as iTunes and Amazon, who pay for the right to offer commercial-free VOD versions of Fox programming to their customers.

A hearing is slated for March 22 to address Fox's amended claim. According to Dish President Joe Clayton, more than 2 million Dish Hoppers have been sold. Currently, Dish has over 14 million customers for its satellite TV services.

We reached out to the companies for comment and will update the story as we hear back from them.

Update: A Dish spokesman responded to Fox's amended lawsuit with the following statement, "With its latest motion, FOX continues its war against how Americans watch TV. DISH has long argued consumers have the right to privately watch shows anywhere, anytime, and it looks forward to continuing its fight on behalf of customer choice and control."

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