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. Ads are what drove me to getting my TV from iTunes in the first place. Now when I watch something at a friend’s house the commercials are INCREDIBLY irritating, especially those little ones in the corner WHILE you’re watching a show! those have evolved from a simple logo to a whole animation that steps all over the show- often destroying the dramatic or comedic moments I tuned in to see.
    They make the experience not worth having.
    The idiots running networks have become so much less interested in their product than in monetizing it that they’re surprised to find the cart incapable of pulling the horse.
    That’s the opposite of Apple’s approach, and I hope that trying to get networks to come on board hasn’t pulled SJ a little off track. the man is mighty focused, but it’s hard to shake hands with crap and come away clean.

  2. I haven’t watched “live” TV since 2000 when I got my first Tivo, because I have no interest in watching commercials. I watch shows when I want, stop and take a break when I want, and FF through commercials. Now when I’m at a friends house and they’re watching live TV, it makes me crazy to have to sit through a loud 2- minute sales pitch — I have no idea why anyone would do it.

    I’d love to have everything delivered through my Apple TV, and definitely buy shows on iTunes that I either miss or to watch a series from the beginning. I’d probably buy a lot more TV shows if they dropped the price to 99 cents.

    However, I pay a monthly Tivo and cable bill now so that I can watch TV and not watch commercials. The individual shows are in effect free (or part of the cable package). If I pay for an individual show, there better not be commercials. And I’d have no interest in getting free shows that literally force me to watch a commercial — that is literally going back in time a decade.

    I’m sure there’s a solution out there, but forcing consumers to do ANYTHING will never be it.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me how shallowly people evaluate the media viewing landscape. Grow up people! Sure, there are a bunch of ways bypass ads with your DVRs or steal media outright. But if everyone does this, where do you think the money is going to come from to produce the shows you love to watch? The approach is unsustainable in real life. You really can’t expect to get something for nothing, especially if you want some quality to it.

    Already several shows I loved have been canceled due to lack of traditional network viewership. And as I sit there watching the final season torrents, I know I am contributing to the problem. I’ve seriously considered trying to “donate” some money to quality shows that I really enjoyed, like BSG that I watched exclusively from torrents for 5 seasons for free (in HD).

    We need to pay for the media we watch, one way or another, that’s the truth and we all know it. We can either purchase/rent the content or watch it with supporting ads (or perhaps a mixture of both).

    This development is actually a great thing. If Apple can deliver an infrastructure that makes embedded advertising more valuable to the advertiser, by stopping ad skipping and better targeting of viewers, devices and viewing context, then they will be willing to pay more for them. This mean less overall ad seconds/hr required to support a show. And possibly, more interesting ads for you and I to sit through, just like what Goggle did – make contextual web page advertising, well, not too terrible.

    It also means that the content producers and distributors have a good reason to get on board with Apple and iTunes and offer all their content, in HD, possibly for free. How damn cool would that be.

    You will always be able to purchase/rent ad free if it is worth it to you.

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