Apple patent application details mandatory ad viewing in TV shows

The new MacBook - Starting at only $954.59!Apple’s latest patent application sheds “some light on what Steve Jobs could have discussed with the networks when proposing Apple’s new 99 cent content deal,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple. “The patent in fact points to a multiple tiered ad content system that could be set to a sliding price scale. And lastly – the patent indirectly provides us with some insight into how Apple could utilize their recently acquired Quattro Wireless ad service in the future.”

In Apple’s system, “an ad break can consist of one or more ads. The system presents a single ad at the initial ad break and two ads at each subsequent ad break. Other scenarios exist, including dynamic ad breaks with variable numbers of ads. A number of factors can influence the number of ads played in each ad break, including a fee paid by a viewer, a fee paid by an advertiser, storage capacity on the playback device, available network bandwidth, etc.,” Purcher reports. “A user can download copies of an episode [TV show] on various and diverse playback devices, such as an Apple iPod, Apple iPod Touch, Apple iPhone, Apple TV, personal computer, etc. The ad breaks for each [TV show] are in the same spot for each playback device. In one aspect, the content providers of [TV shows] dictate where ad breaks are to be shown and how many ads are in each ad break. The system includes ad break locations, ads, end-of-life information for individual ads or for the ad bundle as a whole, and other related information in an ad bundle. The system can store the ad bundle as a part of the episode asset file or as a separate file. End-of-life information is also known as expiration information. When an ad or an ad bundle expires, the system will not play the ad or the ad bundle.”

Purcher reports, “As ad breaks are viewed, a segment of the episode associated with that ad break becomes an unlocked segment… The unlocked segment can remain unlocked indefinitely, can remain unlocked for a fixed, limited duration, or can remain unlocked for an unknown, but limited duration, such as until the viewer has finished viewing the entire episode… Ad breaks can be mandatory or optional. For example, a content provider can make the first ad optional to provide incentive for the viewer to become engrossed in the show. Once this happens, he or she is more likely to view the remaining ads to unlock the rest of the show.”

Of course, “any protected content is passed through a Digital Rights Management (DRM) module [which employs] technology such as FairPlay by Apple or DVB-CPCM by the DVB Project,” Purcher reports. “When the DRM module authenticates the media and authorizes the user to view the media content, the playback engine outputs the media to a user and records information about the playback in the impression logging cache 436. The impression logging cache records information such as the identity of a viewer and identity of media viewed, when the content was viewed, how many times the content was viewed, etc.”

Other aspects of Apple’s patent application detail how, for example, “ads sent to a teenager’s iPod can be completely different from the ads sent to an adult’s iPod, even if they are both downloading the same episode,” Purcher reports. “A user can pay to view an episode completely ad-free or could pay to remove a certain number or percentage of ads in a tiered system. Multiple tiers or levels of ad content can be provided on a sliding price scale. The system is expandable for future ad presentation models consistent with the principles described [in the patent application].”

There’s tons more information, including multiple patent application illustrations, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: In a nutshell: The more you pay for a show, the fewer ads you’ll see.


  1. I’m not sure when I last watched a show live, much less watched an ad. It takes up so much time watching an entire show plus the ads. I guess if they give us the option, then some may opt to buy the ad version.

  2. Would anyone want to pay for a movie with ads in the middle of if (product placement notwithstanding)? I suspect not. The same will be true for many customers and their feelings about ads in downloaded television.

    I, for one, am not interested in watching ads when I paid for content. Period. I refuse to pay to give someone the opportunity to present me with an ad.

    There’d better be an option for the customer to pay a LITTLE bit more to avoid ads. Otherwise, requiring customers to view ads is simply an incentive for many of us to go out and enjoy the weather….

  3. Yeah, me hates ads, destroys a good movie. A sure way for me to end up leaving and not coming back. Life s too short. Much rather pay a subscription fee than have my intelligence insulted non stop.

    Make it 2 options, free with ads, pay without.

  4. If you’re buying something at a pricepoint and that thing also states that ads will be included, if you still buy it then I suppose there should be some mechanism to ensure the ads are shown not just skipped. That said, I can’t see myself buying stuff with ads in it, no ads is part of the reason I buy things in the first place.

  5. @breeze: TV time is my downtime, when I can take a break, enjoy my crafts, and not be running around doing 50 things at once. I don’t consider settling in with a good show or sporting event “wasting time”…

  6. I ain’t paying for ad supported TV. Period. If it comes with ads – it better be free. Or forget it. I doubt I’m the only one.

    I expect if I have no choice in the matter, I’ll be reading a lot more books on my iPad.

  7. chabigWe all watch ads on TV and at the movies already. And all of the online TV players (like Hulu) show ads. I don’t see a problem with this.

    Like you said, those mediums show commercials to pay for the content you receive for free. This would be content you pay for that would not only have commercials but commercial you couldn’t skip. The reason you pay for HBO or Showtime is that the content does not have commercials.

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