CES Drops CNET, Names Dish Hopper Best in Show

CNET Logo - H 2013

CNET Logo - H 2013

A few weeks after CBS Interactive removed the DVR product from being considered for the honor, the association now says it will be looking for a new media partner to produce its awards show.

The Consumer Electronics Association has dropped CNET as a partner and awarded Dish's Hopper its Best of Show prize for the 2013 industry event.

The decision to honor Dish's DVR product (along with The Razer Edge) comes on the heels of controversy that erupted this month after CNET gave consideration to Dish’s Hopper but then announced it wouldn't be eligible for its Best of CES awards.

CBS Interactive, parent company of CNET, said in a statement at the time that the product “was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp.”

On Thursday, CEA put out a statement that blasted CBS.

“We are shocked that the ‘Tiffany’ network, which is known for its high journalistic standards, would bar all its reporters from favorably describing classes of technology the network does not like,” said CEA president and CEO Gary Shapiro. “We believe that the Dish Hopper DVR is fully covered by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios Inc. The simple fact is making television easier to watch is not against the law. It is simply pro-innovation and pro-consumer.”

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An earlier version of Dish's Hopper has been under legal attack by the major broadcasters, who contend that its system of recording a week's worth of primetime television without advertisement constitutes an unlicensed video-on-demand service. Dish is defending its technology from claims of copyright infringement and breach of contract.

The satellite company was able to fend off a preliminary injunction requested by Fox Broadcasting, but the ruling also suggested that the network might be victorious on some of its claims against Dish. (The ruling is under appeal.)

Additionally, CBS recently made a motion to amend its claims against Dish to rescind its retrans agreement because the network alleged that Dish fraudulently hid the development of the Hopper in negotiations.

At CES this month, CBS' decision to enact a new policy preventing CNET from reviewing products it was fighting in court set off concerns about "editorial independence."

As a result of the decision, which involved CBS chief Leslie Moonves, the tech news outlet lost one of its most prominent reporters, Greg Sandoval, who resigned as a result.

After the CES event, Dish took out a full-page ad in The New York Times that proclaimed Hopper with Sling the Best of Show with an asterisk. "What's an asterisk doing in our award?" the ad reads. "CBS will go to any lengths to keep you from enjoying ad-skipping technology -- even so far as to censor its own writers and throw their decision to name Hopper Best in Show."

A CES spokesperson said the association likely will continue to have a media partnership with CNET but that it will be issuing an RFP soon to find a new media partner to produce the Best of CES awards.

“CES has enjoyed a long and productive partnership with CNET and the Best of CES awards,” said Karen Chupka, senior vp events and conferences for CEA. “However, we are concerned the new review policy will have a negative impact on our brand should we continue the awards relationship as currently constructed. We look forward to receiving new ideas to recognize the ‘best of the best’ products introduced at the International CES.”

Asked for comment, CBS referred to a statement from Mark Larkin, senior vp and general manager of CNET.

"As the No. 1 tech news and reviews site in the world, CNET is committed to delivering in-depth coverage of consumer electronics," said Larkin. "We look forward to covering CES and the latest developments from the show as we have for well over a decade.”

Email: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner