Dish files patent lawsuit against MasterClass over adaptive bitrate technology

Dish Network is taking another streaming video service to court over its proprietary adaptive bitrate technology.

Last week, the satellite broadcaster filed a civil action against Yanka Industries, the parent company of online education service MasterClass, accusing the service of violating its patents by utilizing automated techniques that increase or decrease the resolution of streaming video based on a viewer's Internet connection.

In a complaint reviewed by StreamTV Insider, Dish said it tried earlier this year to contact Yanka CEO David Rogier to put the company on notice about its alleged infringement. Dish waited nearly four months before sending a follow-up letter to Rogier, the complaint said, then waited three weeks before sending a final note to the company.

Rogier didn't respond to any of Dish's outreach efforts, the complaint said. It wasn't clear if anyone at Yanka or MasterClass actually received the satellite company's correspondence. A message sent by StreamTV Insider to an email address listed for press inquiries went unreturned as of Tuesday evening.

It is at least the ninth patent infringement lawsuit filed by Dish Network against streaming video providers over the last several months. Dish also has pending legal cases against the fitness apps iFit BeachBody; kid-friendly service Kidoodle.TV and several adult video websites.

In some of those cases, Dish complains that it has tried for several years to reach an amicable resolution, one where a streaming service that incorporates adaptive bitrate technology pays it a licensing fee. In other cases, Dish filed the lawsuit after attempting a resolution over the course of just a few months.

The lawsuits come at a time when Dish is grappling with the future of its pay television business, which has posted subscriber and revenue declines over the past several financial quarters. Earlier this month, Dish said it lost 64,000 pay TV customers during its third financial quarter of 2023, with its traditional satellite service fully erasing subscriber gains at its streaming brand Sling TV. At last count, Dish said it had around 8.84 million pay TV subscribers, down 11.8% compared to Q3 2022.

In a statement that accompanied the company's Q3 earnings report, a Dish spokesperson said the company "continue[s] to experience increased competition, including competition from other subscription video on-demand and live-linear OTT service providers."

Two such competing services — Fubo and Vidgo — are named defendants in separate but near-identical patent lawsuits filed by Dish in recent weeks. Attorneys representing Fubo and Vidgo have yet to file a response to the lawsuit in court, with both companies receiving extended time to file their answer, according to a review of the federal court docket. A spokesperson for Vidgo previously told STV Insider they believed the core allegations made by Dish were without merit.