Will network sue? "I hope it doesn't come to that, but you never know"
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves told TheWrap Thursday that he believes Dish's new Auto Hop feature, which allows viewers to skip commercials when they watch previously aired shows, is illegal.
"They can't put our content on without commercials," he said in a brief interview at the CW's upfront presentation to advertisers. "They just can't do it. It's illegal."
Asked if the situation could lead to a lawsuit, he responded, "I don't know. I hope it doesn't come to that, but you never know."
Dish is currently being sued by AMC Networks and says it will drop the networks when their contract ends next month.
Moonves said CBS continues to discuss what to do next. Dish contends that Auto Hop, which it debuted last week, merely advances past technology allowing viewers to record shows and fast forward through ads.
"Viewers have always been fast forwarding or skipping through commercials… since the dawn of DVRs," said Dish vice president of product management Vivek Khemka. "What we are doing is basiclly that same functionality, making it simpler for the consumer."
Moonves's comments Thursday came after he also criticized Auto Hop in remarks to reporters Wednesday. He echoed concerns expressed by NBC, FOX and ABC executives.
Moonves noted Thursday — and Khemka confirmed — that NBC and Fox have turned down Dish ads since Auto Hop's unveiling. The ads did not mention Auto Hop, Khemka said. NBC is owned by a Dish competitor, Comcast.
NBC broadcasting chairman Ted Harbert said at the network's upfront Monday that Auto Hop was "an insult" to the traditional model of ad supported television.
Asked if Dish could perhaps offset networks' lost ad revenue from Auto Hop by charging Dish more to run their programs, Moonves answered, "I don't know how you ever upset the apple cart like that."
Moonves added: "I think Ted Harbert said it very accurately. That's the ecosystem that we live in, you can't suddenly change that. How am I going to produce 'CSI' for $4 million without ads. I can't do that. I can't give the audience that kind of quality."