Dish Network's Auto Hop Allows Limited Commercial Skipping

I know, it sounds much too good to be true. So much so that I didn't believe it at first and you can bet there are some restrictions but there it is right in the title. Major television providers will allow you to automatically skip commercials! Again, there are some restrictions but let's take a look at Auto Hop and how it could change how you watch TV.

Currently, many MSOs allow viewers to either fast forward through the commercials in their recordings or to use a 30-second skip button to quickly jump ahead. Dish has decided to go one step further when it comes to their Primetime Anytime service. If you remember from when the Hopper system launched, Primetime Anytime allows you to record all four broadcast networks every day during primetime viewing hours. Hopper automatically saves these recordings for eight days.

While you could always skip through commercials using 30-second skip or your fast forward button, Dish recently announced the availability of Auto Hop. This feature, which was just recently enabled, allows subscribers to automatically skip commercials in their Primetime Anytime recordings as long as they watch them after 1am the following day. While this could put you behind the curve when discussing shows at work the next day, the idea of automatically skipping commercials is reason enough to delay all of my TV watching by at least a day!

It should be noted right away that Auto Hop only works on Primetime Anytime recordings and isn't available for other recorded programming or live TV. Even so, this is a great step forward for DVR technology. It does raise two questions, however.

First, one has to wonder how broadcasters are going to react. I can't think of a way that they'll welcome this development. Nielsen, the company that tracks ad views and show ratings, actually takes DVR viewing into account now. (The company usually uses +3 numbers, tracking DVR views for three days after a show has aired.) If ads are no longer viewed by Dish subscribers, this is going to skew the numbers when it comes to ad views. The only question is by how much.

Secondly, it'll be curious to see the number of subscribers who actually turn on the service. It's been found to this point that even DVR users watch more live TV and rarely fast forward through commercials. If that trend continues then broadcasters may not care very much. It'll also be curious to see if other MSOs offer features like this though it wouldn't be as easy for cable companies without providing new hardware to subscribers. (Cable DVRs need a tuner for each channel recorded whereas the Hopper uses a single tuner to record all four broadcast networks.) Considering many don't even offer 30-second skip, I'd be surprised to see it anytime soon.

Though I highly doubt that we'll see Auto Hop moving to other providers any time soon, it's nice to see an MSO move forward with convenience technology and not simply providing more tuners or a bigger hard drive in their DVR. Though the Hopper provides both of these things over competitors, if you factor in Sling capabilities and the whole-house properties that the Hopper and companion Joey STBs provide, Dish is definitely moving forward as others remain stagnant.