Monday, January 14, 2013

The CES Hopper story goes far further than originally believed

Last week, it was reported that CNET made Dish Network's acclaimed -- but controversial -- Hopper with Sling DVR a finalist in its "Best of CES" awards, but that its parent company, CBS, said "Not so fast." Although we had been told the high-level view of the issue, on Monday, Jan. 14, we got to hear the full details.

Last Friday, we were told that CBS objected to Hopper being a finalist because it is in active litigation with Dish Network over the company's Hopper DVRs. Those DVRs have two things that are unique: they automatically record the primetime schedule from ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox. The more contentious feature, though, is a built-in ad-skipping feature called "AutoHop." Unlike manual skip functionality on other DVRs, AutoHop automatically skips ads.

As you might expect, broadcast networks aren't too pleased with this, and lawsuits have flown in both directions.

Upon being given the word from upper management -- reports are that the decision came straight from the office of CBS CEO Leslie Moonves -- CNET added the following to its Best of CES page:
The Dish Hopper with Sling was removed from consideration due to active litigation involving our parent company CBS Corp. We will no longer be reviewing products manufactured by companies with which we are in litigation with respect to such product.
However, while originally it was reported that CBS told CNET to remove the Dish Hopper with Sling DVR from the the finalists, reportedly things were much worse than that. Rather than being a finalist, it turns out that the Hopper with Sling won the "Best of Show" award -- the ultimate prize.

Once these revelations emerged, questions quickly arose about the CNET editorial staff. One question from The Verge -- one which echoed throughout social media -- was "why editors at the site have remained mum on the events surrounding the decision."

That question was answered just before noon (Pacific time) on Monday by CNET's Lindsey Turrentine. She went into great detail, even saying:
The one thing I want to clearly communicate to my team and to everyone at CNET and beyond is this: CNET does excellent work. Its family of writers is unbiased, focused, bright, and true. CNET will continue to do excellent good work. Of that I am certain. Going forward, I will do everything within my power to prevent this situation from happening again.
They will be doing that without Greg Sandoval, though. On Monday, he tweeted:
Hello all. Sad to report that I've resigned from CNET. I no longer have confidence that CBS is committed to editorial independence.
He followed that up with additional tweets:
CNET wasn't honest about what occurred regarding Dish is unacceptable to me. We are supposed to be truth tellers.

Please know no one in News or Reviews editorial did anything wrong. I believe CNET’s leaders are also honest but used poor judgement. ...

I am not disgruntled. CBS and CNET were great to me. I just want to be known as an honest reporter. Thanks everyone for reading me.
If there's one good thing about this bruhaha, it is the fact that knowledge that Dish's Hopper with Sling DVR was originally given the "Best in Show" award will eventually spread. That might help Dish, though certainly not as much as an actual award.

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