TV nirvana is closer than you think. DISH, a US pay-TV provider, launched a new feature called Auto Hop which automatically skips over commercials. That’s right, commercials disappear. No need to fast-forward through commercials, realize you went too far, then rewind to catch the beginning of the scene. You can watch your recorded shows in a fraction of the time.
“Viewers love to skip commercials,” explained Vivek Khemka, vice president of DISH Product Management. “With the Auto Hop capability of the Hopper, watching your favorite shows commercial-free is easier than ever before. It’s a revolutionary development that no other company offers and it’s something that sets Hopper above the competition.”
There are some restrictions to Auto Hop. You need to have DISH as your TV provider as well as their Hopper DVR. The feature only works on network shows (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) broadcast in primetime in HD. Auto Hop can only be used to watch shows the day after they air (after 1am).
As exciting as the Auto Hop feature may be, it has to fit with the way you watch TV shows, that is, if you watch TV. If you only watch live TV shows, you will still have to suffer through commercials. If you watch recorded shows on your DVR that don’t fit within the Auto Hop requirements, your fast-forward button will still get a workout. If you watch TV shows on the Internet or through an app, you’re probably hoping that Auto Hop will be developed for you soon. If you watch purchased TV shows from Amazon or iTunes or watch using Netflix or Hulu+, Auto Hop won’t matter to you.
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The ability to skip make commercials disappear automagically isn’t new. SONICblue offered this feature over 10 years ago on its ReplayTV DVR’s. With its Commercial Advance feature, ReplayTV made commercials disappear on any show viewed through the DVR, even shows watched live-delayed.
But alas, networks and studios file a lawsuit against SONICblue for copyright infringement of the advanced features of the ReplayTV, including Commercial Advance and Send Show, the ability to share recorded shows over the Internet with other ReplayTV owners. The lawsuit ended when SONICblue filed for bankruptcy and eliminated the Commercial Advance and Send Show features from future models of ReplayTV.
Owning several ReplayTV DVR’s, I can tell you that watching TV shows without commercials is sublime. Having savored the experience of Commercial Advance, I am tempted to switch to DISH immediately to take advantage of Auto Hop.
I’m not hopping over to DISH quite yet though. Auto Hop is merely few days old and possible legal battles have not yet begun. Whether legal action will be taken remains to be seen. But if Auto Hop can avoid legal quagmires, this feature may be the next great advance for watching TV.
Do you watch commercial TV? Would you like to retire your fast-forward button? Do you want the ability to watch shows without commercials? Do you think Auto Hop can avoid the courtroom? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Update (5/24/12): Today broadcast TV networks Fox, NBC and CBS sued DISH over the Auto Hop commercial-free feature of its DVR’s.
* Watching TV image by Elena Bobrovitzkaya