Written by Zachary Ledbetter

There has been a lot of conversation and controversy surrounding DISH Network’s latest feature, the AutoHop, or “hopper” for short. Last year, DISH introduced AutoHop as the latest and greatest tool in Digital Video Recorder (DVR)technology. DVR usage has increased by 43% since its introduction in 2007, and today four out of ten homes have at least one DVR system. Essentially, AutoHop allows viewers to bypass (hop over) those pesky television commercials and get on with the show, so to speak. This has some television advertisers concerned that information about their products and services will not be disseminated to the viewing public and, as a result, the viewing public, i.e. potential and existing customers, will decrease in numbers and negatively affect revenue.

Networks, too, have expressed concern – advertising is how they pay the light bill and keep shows on the air. Business owners who consider broadcast advertising may be concerned that their budget is wasted on commercials that viewers are simply “hopping over” due to DVR capabilities. Indeed, people are voicing their concerns all over the place, and there’s even a lawsuit or two in the works – networks suing DISH and DISH suing networks

So, let’s look at the facts.

DISH Network says their AutoHop features allows viewers to skip commercials with the greatest of ease. But what they don’t blatantly say in their advertising is that AutoHop only works for shows aired on the four major networks and only for primetime shows (7:00pm – 10:00pm). It doesn’t work on sports programming or local news, and it is not included in DISH’s two lowest price tiers. Their advertising says you can watch recorded programs for eight days after they originally air, but it doesn’t tell you that the feature isn’t even available until the day after the show airs. How many of us rush home after a long day at work to watch a favorite show an hour or two after it airs? Statistics show that the majority of viewers watch their DVR’d shows the same day it originally airs and then they delete it. And statistics show that the majority of television viewers (76%) watch far more TV in real time than in time-shifted programming. Viewers aged 25-49 watch an average of 269 hours of television in real time per month as opposed to 26 hours per month of time-shifted programming. In short, DVR programming accounts for just a small percentage of total TV viewing and of those who do time-shift, 50% still watch TV commercials. Research also shows that advertisers target demographics across the board watch broadcast television primarily, making broadcast the single most effective way to reach potential customers through market specific advertising.
Another issue is DISH subscriber cost. AutoHop costs around $10.00 per month per room (at least $120.00 per year). A big question that is being bandied about is, “In these difficult economic times, will people pay their hard earned money just to skip a few commercials aired during a few shows?” Experts doubt it.

A third question is one of protest. When the people – in this case, the advertisers – speak, the big heads have to listen. The fact is companies, especially small businesses, need television commercial advertising to reach their potential and existing customers so their businesses can thrive. Not only that the networks rely on broadcast TV advertisers for revenue. In the 21st century, broadcast television remains the single most powerful venue for advertising. Huge, multi-million dollar companies that have the resources and budgets to pay steep cable advertising costs may not care about this issue. But small businesses will suffer if they are pushed out of the advertising arena due to increased costs and network access limitations. Additionally, the networks will suffer at their bottom line.

Lastly, research shows that people often forget to fast forward through recorded commercials. We are creatures of habit. That’s good news for advertisers. Concerns are legitimate, but only when looking at the current state of the issue without getting all ahead of ourselves. Consider Super Bowl commercials. Who doesn’t want to see a chipmunk wearing a feather fedora while riding a bicycle and talking about car insurance? We’re not missing that one for anything! (Statistics provided by Neilson – http://www.nielsen.com/us/en.html)

Zachary Ledbetter is an Account Executive with Newell Ledbetter Advertising Inc. Zach specializes in media placement as well as creating marketing strategies using network television, cable television, radio and the internet. Call (719) 635-9988 for more information or contact us on www.nlamedia.com