(Corrects paragraph 11 to reflect statement was a quote, fixes garble in headline)
* ‘Hopper with Sling’ was up for Best of CES award
* CBS says product pulled due to litigation
By Liana B. Baker
Jan 10 (Reuters) - No. 2 satellite provider Dish Network and No. 1 broadcaster CBS Corp are clashing again, this time over accolades from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Dish’s chief executive, Joe Clayton, accused CBS Corp on Thursday of meddling in an industry award competition and disqualifying Dish because of a lawsuit between the two companies.
On Monday, Dish unveiled the latest version of its controversial digital video recorder at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Dubbed the “Hopper with Sling” for its “Hopper” recorder and “Sling” transmission technology, the DVR has new features such as the ability to stream live TV and recorded programs outside the home.
Dish is already embroiled in a legal battle with all the major broadcast networks, including CBS, over the DVR’s first iteration, and may spark more disputes with its updated version.
“We are saddened that CNET’s staff is being denied its editorial independence because of CBS’ heavy-handed tactics,” Clayton said in a statement.
CNET, a technology blog owned by CBS that publishes reviews of products as well as news stories, chooses the winners of the “Best of CES” awards that are given out every year after the trade show.
CBS Interactive, the unit that oversees CNET and other CBS digital assets such as Metacritic and CBSSports, confirmed that the product was “removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp.”
CBS added that “CNET will not review any products that are specifically the subjects of current litigation.”
The Consumer Electronics Association, the group that puts on the conference, slammed CBS on Thursday, accusing the media company of depriving CNET readers full access to information about Dish’s products.
“We are extremely disappointed that CBS has interfered with CNET’s ‘Best of CES’ awards...We call upon CBS to reconsider its decision,” the group said in a statement.
The group added, “Due to a pending lawsuit, CNET parent CBS is practicing effective censorship over CNET’s editorial staff.”
This isn’t the first war of words between Dish and CBS. In September, Clayton called CBS’ CEO Les Moonves a “bully” for threatening to pull the no. 1 broadcast network CBS off Dish’s systems if it continues to market the ad-skipping capabilities of the Hopper.
The Hopper has an “autohop” function that allows subscribers to skip commercials automatically when they are watching recorded shows. Dish maintains that the product is something its 14 million subscribers desperately want. But CBS and its broadcasting brethren - Disney’s ABC, Comcast’s NBC, and News Corp’s FOX - argue that Dish is undermining the networks’ key source of revenue: advertising.
Charlie Ergen, chairman and owner of Dish, has appeared in many highly public spats with companies and has taken his fights to courts across the country.
Analysts say Ergen loves leverage, or getting the upper hand over other companies, which may be the reason he finds himself in so many corporate battles. On Tuesday, Dish made a surprise $2.28 billion bid for wireless company Clearwire Corp, setting the stage for a takeover battle with Sprint Nextel S.N. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by M.D. Golan, Andrew Hay and Jim Loney)