Gannett to stop broadcasting on Dish if ad-skipping feature not removed

Dish Network Corp said the broadcasting arm of newspaper publisher Gannett Co Inc has threatened to withdraw broadcasting on the satellite TV provider if it does not block the commercial-skipping feature on its digital video recorders or agree to pay massive penalties.

Dish's AutoHop feature on its Hopper DVR lets customers press one button to automatically skip commercials when they are watching recorded TV shows. Dish introduced its high-definition DVR called the Hopper earlier this year.

If Gannett Broadcasting lets the current broadcasting contract expire without renewal, Dish customers in 19 cities including Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Denver, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Phoenix and Sacramento would lose various ABC, CBS and NBC-affiliated stations, Dish said in a statement.

"Gannett's demands translate into more than a 300 percent rate increase, which would likely result in higher monthly fees for consumers."

Dish offered to pay Gannett market rates, including an increase of more than 200 percent above current rates, and offered to extend the transmission contract during negotiations, which Gannett has refused, the No. 2 satellite provider said.

Gannett Broadcasting has worked hard to reach a fair agreement with Dish, but Dish has refused to reach a fair, market-based deal till now, Gannett said in an emailed statement.

"If Dish refuses to reach a deal before midnight, October 7 Dish subscribers could lose their local Gannett station and access to some of the year's best programming," Gannett said.

Gannett said it is committed to continue negotiations with Dish till the Oct 7 deadline and that an agreement is possible.

Other cities that could be affected by a blockage are St. Louis, Little Rock in Arkansas, Tampa and Jacksonville in Florida, Macon in Georgia, Bangor and Portland in Maine, Grand Rapids in Michigan, Buffalo in New York, Greensboro in North Carolina, Columbia in South Carolina, and Knoxville in Tennessee, Dish said.

In August, Fox Broadcasting Company asked a court to put a stop to two features on Dish's new digital video recorder that let consumers skip commercials because it is hurting the TV networks' business.

(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)