Philips Wants to Patent Must-See Ads

Philips Electronics has filed a patent application for a technology which would prevent users from changing channels to avoid watching television commercials as well as prevent viewers from fast-forwarding through recorded advertisements.

The basic idea is that broadcasters would embed special flags or control signals in television advertising. Playback devices with Philips’ proposed technology would, upon receiving the signal or coming across it in recorded media (whether on VHS tape, a hard drive, or streamed within a home) disable channel-changing, fast-forwarding, and other ad-skipping features in the playback device. The result would be that viewers have no choice but to view the ads in real time. When the ads are over, broadcasters send a special control signal to re-enable channel changing.

Philips’ rational for the technology is that the ability to change channels and fast-forward through recorded commercials diminishes the advertising revenue networks and broadcasters derive from programming. As such, Philips also envisions a system whereby viewers could pay a fee to broadcasters or providers to re-enable channel-switching or ad-skipping technologies during commercials. That way, the broadcasters wouldn’t losing any revenue from those channel-hoppers and ad-skippers; instead, they’d become a revenue stream.

To their credit, Philips does imagine there might be some consumer backlash to this technology: “When the remote control keys of the video playback device cease to change channels during advertisements there is a very strong likelihood that the viewers will blame the video display device (and the manufacturer of the video display device) instead of the program broadcaster.” Philips allows that device manufacturers therefore might want to let users override the feature-blocking capabilities