EchoStar must disable DVRs, judge rules The other day I was sitting on the BART train listening to these two 50 something year old ladies yammer on about their latest delight. Each had recently upgraded to a Comcast HD DVR and they just couldn’t get enough about how cool it was to skip commercials. Neither one of them understood the technology very well (at one point one said to the other that you could actually fast forward commercials even when watching live TV) but it was the only thing they talked about for about 30 minutes while I rode the BART train home.
There’s something special about a DVR owners experience when their eyes are finally opened to time shifting TV. It’s an amazing feeling of liberation. You don’t realize this or even know you’re missing anything before you have the DVR, but once you’ve got it you may as well apply the old phrase you can take my DVR away when you pry it from my cold dead hand.
Which is why it sucks this morning if you happen to be an EchoStar DISH customer. Yesterday a judge ordered EchoStar to disable the DVR feature on all but about 192,708 of their boxes out in the field. Wow, that hurts.
The good news I guess is that the judge gave EchoStar 30 days to comply which means that if you’re a DISH customer you’ve likely got at least a few weeks to make the switch over to DirecTV or digital cable, buy a Media Center PC, or buy a stand alone TiVo.
The reason why you are losing your DVR at DISH is because a court has ruled that EchoStar violated TiVo’s patents when developing their DVR. On top of a previous monetary judgement the court also ordered EchoStar to pay TiVo an additional $15 million yesterday bringing the total amount to almost $90 million! Whew! That’s a lot of bacon mom.
So what does this judgement mean? Well first it means that EchoStar has got a PR disaster on their hands this morning. Hopefully they planned for a “what if” scenario in case they lost but this will get out to their customers and their phones are going to go nuts with people asking what this means for them. And it’s going to be very difficult for them to convince these people to stick with DISH.
It also means though that a certain chill has been put on the entire TV time shifting market. A simple message was sent with the EchoStar lawsuit and that is cable and satellite providers ought to consider partnering with TiVo or there very well may be hell to pay. Comcast and DirecTV have already smartened up and done just this.
Update: Dish is now saying this morning that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington DC has temporarily blocked yesterday’s injunction by the Texas Court. Hopefully more details to follow.