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TiVo vs. Dish: Which DVR Skips Commercials Better?

CEDIA 2016: TiVo SkipMode and Dish AutoHop let users “skip” TV commercials, but they do it completely differently. Which one is best?

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Full disclosure: I skip commercials. Even during the Super Bowl. It’s one of the reasons I love my Dish Hopper DVR, which does the skipping for me, even when I’m not at the controls.

Dish had some fresh competition on the commercial-skipping front at CEDIA 2016. Now TiVo skips commercials, too. Which is better?

Dish AutoHop

For the prime-time shows with “AutoHop,” the Dish service works flawlessly. There is never, ever a misstep. Even those 5-second trailers — where a network touts its own shows just before returning the viewer to main performance — remains intact, so Dish keeps its partners happy.

How does Dish skip commercials so perfectly? We revealed the dirty little secret last year: Dish has people who sit and watch the shows as they air, and they flag the beginnings and ends of the commercials for AutoHop. It was one of the most tech-defying secrets CE Pro has ever exposed.

So that’s why the service works so well. The problem is … Dish tags only a handful of primetime shows by a select number of networks. Worse, they’re not available with commercial-skipping until several days after the show airs.

After all, Dish has to maintain its crucial relationships with the major networks, most of which sued and settled with Dish over AutoHop.

So for primetime shows that can wait, Dish’s AutoHop is a treat. Here’s a bigger treat: Dish’s PrimeTime Anytime service records all the big network shows during the crucial hours. And why not with Hopper 3’s 2 TBs of storage (more via USB)?

Check out more CEDIA 2016 coverage!

TiVo SkipMode

In comes TiVo with Roamio, Bolt and now Bolt+ and the new SkipMode service. TiVo doesn’t need to appease the studios and networks like Dish does. So they can skip away.

TiVo’s newish SkipMode service covers the top 20 channels, and ad-free versions are available roughly five minutes after air time.

So how does TiVo get away with it when Dish was sued by everyone?

TiVo's trick is that their “people” only tag the beginning of each TV segment – not the end. Essentially, they’re bookmarking chapters and the user just presses the SKIP button to … skip to the next segment.

It’s a handy feature, not just for skipping commercials but for jumping through the slow bits of a show, like those super-long previews of CBS Sunday Morning, which unfortunately is not a primetime event.

The thing about TiVo’s SkipMode is that you have to be at the remote control to skip a commercial, which isn’t very convenient if you’re, say, cleaning the house or cooking. I'm good there.

At CEDIA, product manager Jeff Pedersen told me the bookmarks are created by using real live people watching TVs as well as special TiVo technology – about 50/50, he guesses.

Take your pick: More shows almost immediately after they air … and you have to press a button? Or fewer shows, available days after they air, but you can cook and clean while you watch and skip?

About the Author

Julie Jacobson
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Julie Jacobson:

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson

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