Broadcaster seeks to void retrans deal

CBS is asking the courts to invalidate its retransmission consent agreement with Dish in a new filing Tuesday that accuses the satcaster of hiding its intent to launch AutoHop.

An amendment to a counterclaim from the broadcaster in its ongoing legal battle with Dish charges “fraudulent concealment,” stemming from an exchange between execs from the two companies in their negotiations for a retrans deal signed in January 2012.

“It is now apparent that during the time period in which the parties negotiated the retransmission agreement, Dish had developed a system that would record and playback all CBS primetime television programming on-demand without commercials and had definite plans to offer that feature to subscribers,” according to the claim. “Yet, during the negotiations, Dish intentionally concealed this fact from CBS.”

The amendment recounts a December 2011 meeting between CBS exec VP Martin Franks and Dish execs including chairman Charlie Ergen and CEO Joe Clayton in which the satcaster toppers disclosed plans to deploy a multi-room DVR, known as Hopper, but never specified the inclusion of AutoHop in the product. CBS didn’t know about the existence of the ad-skipping function until just before Dish’s announcement in May.

CBS is asking either that the retrans pact be negated or that Dish be made to pay damages.

The new charge steps up an already heated feud that escalated last month at the Consumer Electronics Show, when CBS mandated that Dish’s Hopper be ineligible to receive an award from CNET, a technology website the broadcaster owns. Dish retaliated by trumpeting itself the winner of the CNET award in a full-page ad in the New York Times.

(Rachel Abrams contributed to this story.)

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