Analyst on Dish Ad-Skipper: 'Serious Disruptions' for TV Business

3:29 PM PST 05/25/2012 by Paul Bond

Meanwhile, another observer advised the networks: “Innovate, don’t litigate.”

In the dispute between broadcasters and Dish Network over the latter’s AutoHop ad-skipping service, a couple of Wall Street analysts were siding mostly with Dish even as Moody’s Investors Service on Friday warned of “broad negative credit implications across the television industry” if AutoHop were widely deployed.

Fox, CBS and NBC have sued Dish over its DVR with an AutoHop feature, which allows all commercials on broadcast television (not cable) to be skipped if watched the next day, and Dish has sued those networks along with ABC, accusing them of attempting to “stifle its latest innovation.”

PHOTOS: 18 of Hollywood's Outrageous Entertainment Lawsuits

On Friday, Moody’s warned that if the technology is “broadly adopted by consumers” and also penetrates pay-TV, “It would result in serious disruptions and negative credit implications for all stakeholders.”

Moody's also speculated that the networks will have to “saturate” programming with product placement to make up for revenue it will lose when advertisers start to pay less for ads that they know large numbers of consumers are skipping through. Retransmission fees also will have to be raised to make up for lost revenue, and the cost will be passed to consumers, which could “kick start a cord-shaving trend.”

Read the Fox Complaint Here

On the other hand, Richard Greenfield of BTIG on Friday chastised CBS, NBC and Fox for suing Dish, offering the advice: “Innovate, don’t litigate.”

“Rather than worry about a DVR that skips all ads, why not focus on making a far wider array of content available on-demand both in-home and out-of-home with a lower ad load so that consumers stop using or even thinking about their DVRs?” Greenfield suggested in a blog post Friday. “We suspect that with a combination of a lighter ad load and highly targeted, more creative advertising, consumers will not even mind being forced to watch ads within on-demand content.”

Read the CBS Complaint Here 

Tony Wible of Janney Capital Markets weighed in late Thursday, speculating that Dish was using its AutoHop technology to gain leverage during carriage negotiations.

“While broadcasters will look to increase fees, Dish could now threaten to be more aggressive with its ad-skipping window by allowing consumers to shift through ads closer to their debut.”

In the near term, Wible told his clients in a six-page report, the controversy is much ado about very little.

Read the Dish Network Lawsuit Here

Dish’s 14.1 million subscribers represent only 12 percent of broadcast homes in the U.S., and 53 percent of them have a DVR (and not necessarily one with AutoHop), so the implied risk is only 6 percent of broadcast homes. Plus, about 82 percent of broadcast DVR viewing occurs the same day that it’s aired. Add it all up, and the average network exposure is $41 million in ad revenue annually, he concludes.

“The strong reaction by networks is likely tied to a desire to prevent the technology from spreading to other operators or to prevent a more aggressive skipping window,” Wible said.

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