Detailed by the Associated Press recently, Comcast is currently beta testing an advertising system for on-demand programming that’s similar to Hulu’s ad technology. Targeting the first few days after the initial airing of a television episode, viewers would be forced to view all commercial breaks that were included during the initial airing. In addition, fast-forwarding would be disabled during those breaks, basically identical to Hulu’s periodic stops in an episode. Episodes older than three days would also include a portion of that advertising, but it would be significantly less than an episode that aired within the last 72 hours.
It’s likely that this technology has been designed to combat viewers that use DVR devices to record shows, then skip past all the advertising. Conceptually, this will allow television networks to negotiate additional advertising revenue packages for this secondary tier of viewership, as opposed to running ads on services like Hulu. Comcast is also partnering with Nielsen to measure on-demand viewership in order to provide accurate ratings to advertisers. Ads for on-demand programming could also be altered slightly for a different audience, since on-demand viewership skews to a younger demographic.
Of course, viewers may not appreciate being forced to watch additional advertising when attempting to catch up on older seasons of shows. In fact, if the show is available on a service like Netflix or Amazon Instant Video, it may be preferable to pay for one of those services to get access to an ad-free version of the content.
Comcast has already tested out the new system on episodes of the USA Network show Psych and plans to expand to other networks in the coming months. It could potentially roll out on a widespread basis for all networks during the first half of 2014. NBC and ABC are the first two networks that are working to test the technology with Comcast. According to Matt Strauss, Comcast’s senior vice president of video services Matt Strauss, CBS is also interested in the technology.