CES Bumps CNET from Its Awards Program After Biased Selection

By Laura Heller, dealnews contributor

CNET is one of the most trusted sources of information for technology news and reviews — or at least it was until this January, when interference from its parent company CBS tarnished the site's reputation and cost it a high-profile partnership.

CNET has long been a sponsor of the International Consumer Electronics Show's annual awards program, naming the best new products at the technology event held each January in Las Vegas. CNET's Best of CES takes place on the final day of the show, and the winners proudly use that title in their promotions. Similarly, dealnews likes to highlight when it finds deals on CNET award winners. After all, a good deal is one thing, but a good deal on an award-winning product from a reputable editorial source and reviewer is even better.

CNET's reputation, however, took a major blow last week.

It came to light that during CES, CNET editors had voted the Dish Hopper with Sling the best new product at CES 2013. It's an upgraded version of the Dish Network's Hopper, a set top DVR that lets Sling users view recorded content on other electronics, watch two channels at the same time on different devices, and easily skip over commercials. Understandably, many TV networks have a problem with that latter feature, and several are engaged in a lawsuit to block the technology — including CNET owner CBS. Thus, CBS told editors not to award the Dish Hopper due to the pending litigation. CNET conceded to the request and withheld the title, naming the Razer Edge the Best of CES instead.

Since then, CNET editors confirmed the above series of events, an editor resigned as a result, and on Thursday, the Consumer Electronics Association announced that it was dissolving CNET's involvement in the awards program all together. The CEA then announced that it is searching for a new editorial partner and named Dish Hopper as a dual-winner of the Best of CES title, stating that it is their award to give.

Even though it's a for-profit program that needs to promote its paid exhibitors, the CEA is compelled to protect the integrity of its technology showcase. Karen Chupka, Senior Vice President and show organizer, told dealnews, "I think our decision to look for a new Best of CES awards partner is a clear indication of what we feel." Chupka added that any publication that submits itself as a replacement for CNET will be required to "include how they will deal with conflicts with their parent company (if a parent company is in play)."

For its part, CBS issued a statement that explained the network's stance on the issue, and eventually downplayed the controversy's influence on CNET's ability to generate future content. "CNET is not going to give an award or any other validation to a product which CBS is challenging as illegal, other networks believe to be illegal, and one court has already found to violate the copyright act in its application," the statement reads, as reported by the New York Times. "Beyond that, CNET will cover every other product and service on the planet."

Photo credit: CNET

Laura Heller is a freelance writer based in Chicago who specializes in mass market retail trends and consumer electronics industries. You can follow her on Twitter @lfheller.

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1 comment
Someone at CBS should be fired for influencing the reporting at CES. CBS contends that the product is illeagle, but until the matter has been heard, that is just their position. If they wanted to be heard, they could have even given the award & acknoleged that CNET's parent CBS is in ongoing litigation over the product. Stating simply that it was technically the best product in the show.

When you have a conflict of intrest, it's usually best to state that, explain that, and point out where your conflict may have affected yor decision. Here they should have disclosed the conflict, explained it, and awarded the title to dish anyway.