Is Skipping Commercials in Television Programs Against the Law? Ask the Networks

Think Dr. House uses that Mac for free. Brands in the fictional world of television are major bidding wars.

With the popularity of services like TiVo and DVR’s becoming a standard device with cable and satellite television services, commercials, long the lifeblood of free television for the masses, are suffering.  Let’s face it.  Most people don’t want to watch commercials, and all of these electronic marvels have made it easier than ever for viewers to skip out on the advertising campaigns and get back to what they really tuned in for.  However, advertising supports the television industry, and as people actually viewing the commercials goes down, so does advertising revenue.  Blocks of time in programs are not as valuable as they once were because advertisers know that they aren’t reaching as many people anymore.  But up until now, none of the networks had really tried to do anything about it.

It seems that the Dish Network crossed the line.  New technology they are offering customers actually has a feature that can automatically skip commercials, making it easier than ever.  The major television networks have had enough, and Fox, NBC, and CBS all sued the Dish.  ABC and PBS are busy trying to stop Aereo, a new company in New York City that is putting local television broadcasts available on the Internet in stream format.  The battle lines are drawn.

What is troubling is the allegations that the networks are bringing in their lawsuits.  They say that the Dish Network is “inducing” copyright infringement.  Apparently this is the only legal basis they could come up with to sue them for developing new technology that consumers want.  It opens up the door to make skipping commercials actually illegal.  It will ultimately come down to a federal judge’s interpretation of the law and whether not viewing commercials but viewing the rest of the television program constitutes a breach in the law.

Commercials are what makes these networks able to provide television basically for free, but as advertising revenues decline, so does the quality and availability of programming.  However, the networks are finding other ways to make their money.  Product placement is becoming a big deal in the television world, with companies paying big bucks to get their advertisements into the actual show and not in 30-second commercial blocks.  For example, companies will pay big time to have the characters in popular television shows use their products as part of the storyline.  In the future, this will probably become even more common.  So, you’ll be getting your commercials one way or another.  The question is would you rather watch them at once or have them speckled throughout your broadcast, possibly interfering with the plot of your favorite shows.

2 thoughts on “Is Skipping Commercials in Television Programs Against the Law? Ask the Networks”

  1. Why keep saying free? Advertising has not kept a damn thing free. The adds I am looking at RIGHT NOW on the right side of the page say DirectTV this and DISH that…NOT free television that also comes with ads. I suppose when your getting something for free (like this news) you stop being a consumer and become a product…thanks.

  2. Why don’t CBS, FOX, and NBC execs want consumers to enjoy commercial-free TV? It’s what we want! I’m a customer and employee of Dish, and I think Auto Hop is great because you can easily watch commercial-free TV. A well-known consumer advocacy group, Public Knowledge, agrees that people should have the right to control how they watch TV. They’re taking a stand for consumers by creating a petition that tells CBS, FOX, and NBC media to keep their hands out of your living room and DVR. Sign their petition to keep control of how you watch TV

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