Dish Network's Hopper with Sling, a set-top box that can skip recorded ads and stream live video to other devices, is now available to Dish subscribers--much to the dismay of major TV networks.
The new Hopper digital video recorder combines two features that Dish previously offered separately. The first is Sling, which can stream live video and DVR content to phones, tablets, and computers. A free Dish Anywhere app for iOS and Android allows subscribers to watch videos remotely.
The second technology is Hopper, which can skip the commercials on primetime shows from ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC. Users can also automatically record three hours worth of primetime shows, and those shows will remain available for up to eight days from the original air date.
This commercial-skipping feature has drawn the ire of the major TV networks. Fox, CBS, and NBC filed separate lawsuits against Dish last year, arguing that the Hopper's ad-skipping feature violates copyright law.
"We were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, Dish Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem," Fox's statement on the lawsuit said. Fox also argues that Dish's Sling Adapter violates copyright and streams programming over the Internet without permission.
Dish has argued that subscribers have been skipping ads for years, and that the Hopper is only giving them more control. "We respect the business models that drive our industry, but we also embrace the evolving nature of technology and new ideas," the company said in a statement last year.
The new Hopper with Sling has led to speculation that more lawsuits could be on the way. The product already caused one fresh controversy last month, when CNet, which is owned by CBS, was barred from declaring the Hopper as the best product at CES. CBS was reportedly concerned that the award might harm its lawsuit.
New subscribers can get the Hopper with Sling with any TV package starting at $25 per month for two years. Existing subscribers will need to call 1-800-333-DISH to ask about replacing their existing boxes.