The war between CBS and DISH Network over the Hopper appears to have taken another casualty; CNET’s editorial independence.
The Internet went ablaze over the past 24 hours with widespread reports that CBS’s CEO forced CNET to drop the Dish Hopper from one of its (many) ‘Best of CES’ awards – and choose another winner instead.
The top reporter at CNET on the CBS v. Hopper controversy Greg Sandoval, has already resigned in protest as a result of CBS’s handling of CNET.
Hello all. Sad to report that I’ve resigned from CNET. I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence. — Greg Sandoval via Twitter
The bloodfeud between CBS and DISH Network is in regards to DISH’s whole-home DVR, the Hopper. Hopper digitally downloads edited versions of prime time network television, enabling you to auto-skip over commercials. The digital downloads occur at night, in addition to the tuner’s standard three (traditional) satellite tuners. DISH has, at times, argued this gives Hopper the power of six tuners. Otherwise, Hopper is your standard whole-home DVR, using Wi-Fi to send recordings and live television to other rooms in the home.
CBS has sued DISH, arguing that DISH’s automatic skipping of commercials goes beyond the Supreme Court’s personal use exemptions, which were struck back when it was controversial for people to fast-forward through commercials on VHS and Betamax cassette recorders in the home.
CBS’s CEO, Les Moonves has stated that defeating DISH in this lawsuit is essential for CBS’s business.
And it appears he is willing to override the editorial capacity of CNET to ensure DISH didn’t get any favorable coverage. Moonves has been implicated in CNET’s editors being forced to revoke one of their (many) ‘Best of CES’ which was awarded to the Hopper. CNET leadership apparently ordered CNET’s editorial staff to re-vote and pick another winner.
CBS may have solid legal footing to argue Hopper is running afoul of copyright law. In fact, we sympathize with their arguments. But, in the process, we can see how ‘Best of CES” awards can get caught in the sausage factory of commercial endorsements, litigation, and inside politics.
In the end, most don’t care about Best of CES awards. In fact, there are so many awarded by so many outlets, that they’re practically meaningless. But, what will stand out here, for years to come, is that CBS stepped in it. They lost a great reporter, and they hurt both the image of the Tiffany Network, and the ubiquity of CNET in the process.
After all, this is certainly going to be the thing that stands out to us when we read a CNET article over the next year. Just don’t expect 60 Minutes to get to the bottom of who said what… not that we typically do.
The biggest winner here? DISH. All DISH has to do is create a crafty ad campaign that alludes to one high-profile tech website being banned from mentioning Hopper in its ‘Best of CES’ award. They don’t need to mention CNET or CBS – just promote the (existing) narrative in the tech community that Hopper is a must-have device, simply because media executives don’t want you to have it.
CNET Admits, Attacks CBS in Response
We at PhoneNews.com waited for CBS/CNET to respond. We wanted to hear their side of the story. Ultimately they did respond. It doesn’t help CBS much.
CNET claims that when CBS was alerted that Hopper would win the award, that CBS issued a compay-wide ultimatium to halt all awards and reviews for products that are involved in litigation with CBS-owned companies. CNET took the brazen step of admitting they complied, and admitting their detest for the move ex-post-facto (or in this case, ex-post-award).