Satellite television group Dish Network said Friday it went to court against the major US TV networks, aiming to defend against lawsuits from the broadcasters over its ad-skipping service.
Dish, which introduced a digital video recorder this month which allows consumers to record prime-time broadcasts and then skip commercials, said three broadcast networks -- CBS, News Corp-owned Fox and Comcast-controlled NBC -- filed complains on Thursday.
"The lawsuits filed by the networks essentially argue that consumers must watch commercials. We find that proposition absurd and profoundly anti-consumer," said Dave Shull, senior vice president of programming for Dish.
"Customers have been skipping commercials since the birth of the remote control, and the networks are arguing against that fact. Taken to the extreme, will the networks next ask consumers to stop changing channels?"
At issue is the Dish service called "AutoHop" which filters out commercials when shows are replayed though the DVRs. A similar service was shut down by court action a decade ago.
The broadcasters contend the Dish service undermines the model of ad-support free broadcast TV.
Fox said in a statement that the suit was filed because of Dish's "surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem."
"Their wrongheaded decision requires us to take swift action in order to aggressively defend the future of free, over-the-air television," Fox said of its lawsuit.
Dish said it filed suit against the three, and pre-emptively against Disney-owned ABC, seeking a declaratory judgment that the service is legal.
"We don't believe AutoHop will substantially change established consumer behavior, but we do believe it makes the viewing experience better," said Shull.