Sony and Tivoli Intro Music Apps (Peacefully); Dish Network Feature Under Fire

Is there really no such thing as a free entertainment lunch? Depends on who you're asking. Sony and Tivoli Audio have just introduced free (at least for a while) music streaming apps for the iPhone/iPod. But three broadcast networks yesterday filed suits against satellite TV provider Dish Network, to try and squash the "Auto Hop" feature on new DVR boxes that makes prime time viewing ad-free.

Radio  Free World: While Boston-based, Tivoli Audio sells 60 percent of its' stylish radio products overseas and has come to have a deep appreciation of global radio entertainment. The proof is in the free Tivoli Audio app for the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad and Android that offers up push button access to 100 of the world's best stations, as defined by "quality of content,  streaming quality and reliability," said Tivoli Audio founder/CEO/designer Tom DeVesto. "There are now 40,000 internet radio stations worldwide, which makes searching for the best - in categories like rock, classical, folk and jazz - quite daunting. This is a great way to jump in with a positive experience."

Tivoli Audio makes a very nice stand-alone internet radio called NetWorks and built a good data base of audience favorites from it.  But it's frankly hoping the free mobile internet radio app will do more to sell its new Radio Silenz active noise-reduction headphones and forthcoming Bluetooth-enabled versions of its Pal portable and iconic Model One table radio.

 You do have to suffer a little on-screen advertising to get to the otherwise free, streaming radio channels in the Tivoli app, but  the touts are very low keyed.

Sony Spreads MU: Sony Entertainment Network's Music Unlimited streaming music service launched this morning as an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The download's free and so's the first, trial month of service of the premium version, normally  $10 a month deal.  I tapped in and was instantly enjoying just-out albums like John Mayer's retro-folky "Born and Raised," The Cult's pungent comeback "Choice of Weapon," plus the "Vow" set from sensitive girl of the hour Kimbra (of Gotye duet fame) and a sadly posthumous but good rocking session from  Joey Ramone, ". . . ya know?"

 Previously available just on Sony products (like the PS3 and Vita game systems, Bravia TVs, Android tablets and Xperia smartphones), MU also offers a "sync with your PC-stored music" feature and a bunch of commercial-free radio stations categorized by genre and mood - the latter particularly interesting. There's also $4 a month version of MU which features only the sync and radio stations streams.

We Saw It Coming: NBC/Universal, CBS and Fox all filed law suits yesterday against  Dish Network in an effort to squash the new Dish Hopper DVR feature which lets users automatically skip all commercials during replays of those networks' (and ABC's) prime time shows.

 Clearly seeing it coming, Dish lawyers instantly fired back with a countersuit, arguing that the Auto Hop feature is simply the next iteration of  DVR and VCR viewing tools which have long  offered users the option to skip over commercials.

In a press statement rationalizing its' suit, NBC/Universal was most blunt in asserting there can be no such thing as an ad-free lunch, without broadcast TV going bye-bye. "Advertising generates the revenue that makes it possible for local broadcast stations and national broadcast networks to pay for the creation of the news, sports and entertainment programming that are the hallmark of American broadcasting. Dish simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale basis for its own economic and commercial advantage."

There's some speculation that Dish Network chairman Charlie Ergen is using Auto Hop as a bargaining chip to get lower retranmission rates out of the networks. In the meantime, his newly spruced-up satellite TV service is getting LOTS of buzz.