Photo of Replay 4000

DISH Hopper: What Goes Around Comes Around

Satellite TV operator DISH Network got a lot of attention when it announced its new Hopper DVR with a feature that “can automatically skip commercials in primetime TV – ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC in HD. Only on the Hopper. Only from DISH.”

Photo of Replay 4000
The Replay 4000 DVR from 2002.

A cool feature, but hardly new. When ReplayTV introduced the first DVR in 1999, it included a 30-second skip-forward button, a revolutionary idea at the time. (Replay was the brainchild of Anthony Wood, who went on to found Roku.) Three years later, Replay, by then owned by SonicBLUE, introduced the Replay 4000. The new DVR included the ability to skip commercials automatically as well as a feature that allowed sharing of recorded programs with other Replay owners over the internet.

As I wrote at the time, this was viewed with great alarm by Hollywood, and the studios predictably rose up and crushed SonicBLUE, which had a fatal penchant for provoking legal challenges. But Replay, which launched a bit before the more successful TiVo, played an important part in revolutionizing how we watch television.


Published by

Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

5 thoughts on “DISH Hopper: What Goes Around Comes Around”

  1. Thanks for the link to your article on ReplayTV, Steve. I’ve heard of this receiver from a few of my co-workers at Dish, and until now, I didn’t know much about it at all. It’s amazing how far DVR technology has come in the past decade, and you were spot on when you predicted that DVR technology would get cheaper and easier to use with time. Staying true to your prediction, from the past three DVR receivers I’ve had from Dish, the Hopper has been the easiest and the most capable. The PrimeTime Anytime feature is what records the four major networks in HD during primetime, and the Auto Hop feature gives me the choice to watch those recordings without commercials. This may not be a new concept, but it’s definitely the first and only to work seamlessly.

  2. ReplayTV was so far ahead of its time. It was the betamax of DVRs. I was so ticked off when they got sued and eventually went bankrupt. Seems like a gutsy move for Dish. I hope they face the same law suite that ReplayTV faced. What is really odd is that the assests of ReplayTV were actually bought by DirecTV. But DirecTV has not attempted to use the commercial advance technology. Maybe now they will.

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