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. This may be a chess move on Apple’s part. If they can convince the TV folks that they have an opportunity to make money, then they may open their vaults. Which is what we want
    In actual fact, I can’t imagine anyone subjecting themselves to forced advertising. If the brain-dead are willing to save a couple of pennies and rot a few more brain cells, than I don’t really care.

  2. I’m not sure if anyone here is aware of this (judging by the comments), but you people represent minuscule minority of TV -watching public.

    Vast majority of people watch TV with commercials, not because they love the ads, but because this is normal. They pay for basic cable, yet still watch ads during those cable shows (stuff like “Burn Notice” on USA, or “The Closer” on TNT). You can’t get any of those channels for free, meaning you’re already paying for them, yet you’re still watching commercials.

    This isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There is free over-the-air (OTA) TV with plenty of ads; there is cheap paid TV (basic cable, such as TBS, TNT, Lifetime, USA…) with somewhat fewer ads, and there is premium paid TV (premium cable TV, such as HBO, Showtime, Cinemax…), with no commercial interruptions.

    We don’t know how is Apple going to make this work. I am pretty sure of one thing, though; whatever they do, the advertising model made by Apple will be flexible, consistent, unobtrusive, easy to understand and use and pleasant for users. If you want cheap, but with commercials, you’ll get that. If you want to pay more but not watch ads, there will surely be an option. Apple’s track record so far provides plenty of assurance that they’ll build a model that’s good for the consumer.

  3. for those of you old enough to remember cable t.v. was originally touted by its supporters as “ad-free” because you were paying for the content. so much for that. i guess i don’t have much confidence that ads are going to go away.

  4. There have been many people for the last couple of years dissing those of us who prefer physical media, by saying something on the order of, “wake up, get real, downloads are the future.”

    I can only say be careful what you wish for. I will be against downloads as long as I have to PAY for the product, THEN get hit with ads. If this proposal is the “future”, then this is one train I will not be boarding.

  5. Pull the plug!

    Most already pay to receive TV, then they hit you with tons of ads, stupid content and an inconsistent viewing schedule. You will never get that time and money back.

    A year ago I told that if I shut the TV off for a month, I’d feel better rested, more productive, and happier. I tried it and discovered it to be true. Replace your TV time with something of value. Take a walk, visit friends, read a real book, build something, relax.

  6. This is the great game changer Apple had in mind regarding ads? has something similar last time I went there to view a tv show I had missed way, way back… ad… start tv show… ad… continue next segment of tv show… ad… continue next segment of tv show… ad… finish final segment of tv show… FREE OF CHARGE and only one commercial played during each ad break.

    Not so innovative when comes to ads/commercials, Apple! What’s next? Little stickers on your laptops saying “Intel inside”, “NVDIA”, and “Apple OS X”?

  7. I haven’t had a paid cable tv subscription in probably ten years. If there is a show I want to see I find it online or buy it at the store.
    An ads version will have to be free or very cheap. If I’m paying I don’t want to see ads.

  8. Apple is responding to the fact that a lot more people watch ad-based “free” TV shows on Hulu than paid for TV shows on iTunes with no ads. I think Jobs hates ads and ad-free was their first offering. Clearly though most consumers would rather watch ads than pay something. Jobs is throwing in the towel on his anti-ads approach, though it will remain an option for those few willing to pay for it.

  9. It’s really heartening to see how many of you are against ads and recognise them for the unwanted ‘noise’ intrusion that they are in our lives. Hardly anyone realises that ads may get you free broadcast TV but you do end up paying significantly more in the end on every single thing you buy. The cost of those ads are added to the price of he products being advertised. Have you figured that out? Eeesh! It is daylight robbery because it’s like having an invisible sticky hand always in your pocket taking its cut from your spending money. Why do you think stores can discount so deeply for sales, offers and specials? Because they have HUGE margins to cover the cost of things they need but want you to pay for. We don’t want or need to finance their high ad budget costs.
    Start a revolution people and life will get a lot cheaper real soon.
    If you don’t like that idea. come and see me, I will gladly lighten your burden by taking the money you seem so eager to throw away to greedy morons like Zucker and Murdoch.

  10. @Original Jake
    Or could it be that Jobs will let the consumer decide and expects us to send the networks that we won’t be screwed over twice – on the price per show and then ads on top.

  11. @Sarasota

    “My dual-tuner OTA HD DVR has no monthly fee and I can still zip right through commercials. So…..”

    I’d like to know where you got your OTA HD DVR with no monthly fee… and what manufacture, model and price it is.

    As far as I have been able to determine, such a DVR is not for sale in the U.S.

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