Whether it’s the VCR, the DVR or the Hopper, what the entrenched interests see as a threat to their survival is nothing more than technological progress. The VCR marked the first time consumers had control over what they could watch and when they could watch it — and yet the movie studios survived. The DVR upgraded the viewing experience by taking the same concept off magnetic tapes and putting it onto hard drives and digital menus — and yet the television industry survived.
Innovators have the right to innovate, and consumers have the right to enjoy the products of that innovation, within the legal limits.
The burden is on the old media to adapt. Sadly, the broadcasters are trying to use the courts to stifle progress. Why don’t they instead use technology creatively? Work with advertisers to produce commercials that viewers won’t want to skip — offer promotion codes, sales and other creative solutions that can only be gained by watching the commercial.
Therein lies the most troubling aspect of this case. At its core, the suit is about how business, consumers and government view technology. The establishment often views technology as a threat rather than a tool. The networks view progress as the enemy, when the true enemy is their own passivity in innovation.
Innovation always undermines the status quo. It can destroy jobs, markets and entire industries. For every consumer who drooled at the VCR concept, there was a well-connected power broker (with the ear of Washington) determined to block it. What the power brokers fail to realize is that innovation also by its nature creates new jobs, new markets and new industries.
With their attack on DISH Network, Hollywood is using a familiar script — decrying DISH’s innovative PrimeTime Anytime service and AutoHop function as “bootleg copying.”
This is nothing but legal mumbo-jumbo, and I believe DISH has the Supreme Court on its side.
It’s time to salute — not criticize — DISH Network for giving consumers the commercial-free choice they really want.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association and author of “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.”