Dish Network DVR no more?
January 31, 2008 7:43 PM   Subscribe

I scheduled Dish Network to come to my house and install a new HD DVR this coming Monday. And then I read this...

I've been a Dish Network customer with a standard DVR for three years. I just got an HDTV and scheduled the HD DVR installation for Monday. (Yes, the day after the Super Bowl. I should've called sooner.) In order to get the DVR and HD package for free, I had to make an 18-month commitment. In the news today, TiVo won a lawsuit that will force Dish Network either to fork over a buttload of money or to shut down all their customers' DVRs. What should I do? If I go ahead with the installation, and my DVR is shut down, can I get out of the contract? I don't have the fine print of the agreement because I agreed to it over the phone, but I doubt it had a provision for the company losing its right to provide DVR service.

I really like the package I have with Dish; DirecTV and cable don't have similar packages for similar prices. But I absolutely must have DVR, and can't be locked into a contract with no DVR.
posted by Dec One to Law & Government (8 answers total)
I would assume that if they back out of their ability to supply service, that your contract would be considered ended. Normally if the contract terms are changed by the contract holder, the contract becomes null and void. People use that to get out of Tmobile and Sprint contracts all the time.
posted by TomMelee at 7:55 PM on January 31, 2008

Why not simply get a TiVo HD?
posted by oddman at 8:26 PM on January 31, 2008

No crystal ball here, but I cannot believe that Dish Network will allow themselves to be in a position where they aren't offering a service (seen as increasingly neccessary by consumers) that their closest rivals do, nor would they want anything to do with the bad PR and fallout of having existing customers lose that service.

My guess is that they'll set some folks scurrying around to either make or brand a DVR that won't infringe, while grudgingly paying TiVo licensing fees until they do. I'd be more worried about the cost of your plan being adjusted than it disappearing.

Why not simply get a TiVo HD?

Certainly possible but I'm guessing that's where the "free with the 18-month commitment" wrinkle comes in.
posted by jalexei at 8:32 PM on January 31, 2008

Dish says that they have updated their DVR software to avoid infringing, and that customers would not see any downtime.
posted by i love cheese at 9:32 PM on January 31, 2008

Service won't be interrupted. A DVR outage would affect all the high-margin customers who make them the big bucks. It'd be business suicide.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:44 PM on January 31, 2008

Why not simply get a TiVo HD?

Because Tivo HD doesn't work with Dish or DirecTV. The two HD Tivo options only work with over-the-air antenna and cable, integrating cable cards directly into the Tivo, making a cable box unnecessary.

To echo others' statements here, I can't see any situation where Dish would allow your DVR to go dark. It'd be tantamount to setting the thrusters on their satellites for the center of the sun and leaving behind the keys to their corporate headquarters while they moved to Turks and Caicos with a golf bag full of gold bullion. Come to think of it, that doesn't sound half bad.
posted by incessant at 11:20 PM on January 31, 2008

Response by poster: TomMelee: I would hope so, but they would still have the ability to provide me with HDTV service, just not DVR.

oddman: a TiVo HD is much more expensive (up front and monthly) than Dish DVR. And incessant says it won't work anyway.

i love cheese: Thanks for the link. So Dish says the new DVRs won't infringe. They also said the old DVRs didn't infringe (and are still saying so in their appeal). I guess I'll hope that if they're wrong again, at least it'll take another protracted court battle to prove it.

Tacos: I hope you're right, but I'm not paying a lot for the DVR and I imagine others aren't either.
posted by Dec One at 5:20 AM on February 1, 2008

Another Dish customer here, who got a chill down his spine upon reading this news yesterday ("Don't take away my DVR!") and spent WAY too much time yesterday looking into this.

First, Tivo prevailed on the software patent only -- not hardware. And Dish says their "next generation" software (which I'm guessing you're getting) no longer infringes. So. If I understand this correctly, the beef is no longer with the boxes themselves, just the software that used to run them.

As a long-time HD and DVR customer, I saw some changes in the UI when the new software was released in 2007, but can't speak as to what's happening under the hood, which is where I'm sure the real conflict lies. However, I've also had the opportunity to look at other DVR systems and they all seem pretty much the same, IMHO. (Again, just judging from the interface.) So if Dish is infringing I can't imagine that they're all not infringing as well.

At any rate, Dish is appealing this latest ruling, which will probably put a stay on the injunction against selling/supporting DVRs.

And finally, to echo others' posts, I imagine Dish would much rather write a big fat check or climb into bed with Tivo under a licensing agreement (which Dish's president alluded to in his last quarterly review conference call) than pull the plug on millions of high-margin customers who will just run into the arms of their competition.

I don't think your upcoming service (or mine) is going anywhere soon. So enjoy your HD and DVR -- it will literally change your life for the better.
posted by Work to Live at 6:49 AM on February 1, 2008

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