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Fox asks court to ban Dish's ad-skipping features
* Fox says Dish causing "irreparable harm"
* Seeks preliminary injunction
* Latest move in commercial-skipping lawsuit
* Dish says consumers should control viewing
* Hearing set for Sept. 21
By Liana B. Baker
Aug 26 (Reuters) - Fox Broadcasting Company is asking 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.
In May, lawsuits and a countersuit were filed pitting No. 2 satellite provider Dish Network Corp against CBS Corp, News Corp's Fox, Comcast Corp's NBC Universal and Disney's ABC.
TV networks are upset that Dish, led by billionaire chairman Charles Ergen, would introduce the "AutoHop" feature that may well please viewers, but would undermine the networks' key source of revenue: advertising.
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.
Fox said in a filing dated Aug. 22 that is seeking a preliminary injunction against Dish in a district court in California because the network "likely to suffer irreparable harm" while the companies litigate further.
In addition, Fox said Dish's "PrimeTime Anytime" feature, a service that records all of the prime-time TV programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox with one click and then keeps them saved for up to eight days, violates Dish's contract related to accessing video programming on demand.
"By blocking television commercials, PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop will cause fewer advertisers to buy commercials and erode the main source of financing for broadcast television," Fox said.
Dish, which has about 14 million customers, made a software update last month on the Hopper's DVR but it did not solve the problem and only "camouflages" Dish's copyright infringement, Fox said.
A Dish Network spokesman said in an email on Sunday: "DISH believes consumers have the right to control their television-viewing experience. We're disappointed at Fox's continued fight against that right." Dish maintains that the contested features let viewers fast-forward through but not delete commercials, and said the feature does not alter the broadcast signal.
A hearing on the injunction is set for Sept. 21 in Los Angeles.
The case is Fox Broadcasting Co et al v. Dish Network LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 12-04529.
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