How Dish Network's Hopper Went from 'Best of CES' to a Mess for CBS

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Dish Network Hopper CES CNET CBSThere's a fine line between editorial interference and tarnished integrity.

CBS (CBS) has a reputation to rebuild after an embarrassing episode during this month's International Consumer Electronics Show.

CBS subsidiary CNET was set to hand Dish Network (DISH) a "Best of CES" award for its revolutionary Hopper DVR. The problem here is that CBS and other broadcasters are in legal fisticuffs with Dish Network over the ad-skipping feature of the head-turning set-top box. CBS makes a living off of television commercials, and the Hopper lets viewers breeze right through them. If ads are being zapped, advertisers will want to pay less to air them.

CBS decided to put its foot down. It asked CNET to disqualify its legal rival from consideration for the award. CNET complied.

This was a small story at first. It wasn't known at the time that CNET editors had actually decided that Hopper was award-worthy, only to have its parent company yank it away.
Then CNET senior writer Greg Sandoval publicly resigned.

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"I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence," Sandoval tweeted a week after the show.

Sandoval, who had with plenty of tech reporting experience before his stint at CNET, went on to defend his superiors. However, the cat was out of the bag. CBS meddled, and CNET's editorial integrity may never be the same.

Dishing it Out

Dish Network isn't a saint. The Hopper isn't the first time that the country's second largest satellite television provider has trampled through legal gray areas. Dish Network earlier lost a case against TiVo (TIVO) involving some of the patents behind DVR technology.

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However, until the legal system has the final say, it's hard to assume that what the Hopper does is illegal. It's disruptive -- that's for sure -- but that only explains why CBS and traditional networks are feeling so threatened.

Dish Network probably could've used the award. Despite being a cheaper alternative to larger rival DirecTV (DTV), the service provider continues to fade in popularity. Dish Network lost 19,000 net satellite TV accounts during last year's third quarter, and it's coming off of back-to-back quarters of declining earnings.

Dish Network has been featuring Hopper in its latest commercials, and a "Best of CES" award would've validated the platform and the company.

Then again, Dish Network may be generating even more attention now than it would have it had actually won the award. CBS, on the other hand, is attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.

Editorial integrity isn't easy to keep, but it's even harder to win back after it's squandered.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned.


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