(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
advertising, directv, intrusive, pause, tv

Companies:
at&t



The TV Sector's Latest Bad Idea: Ads That Play When You Press Pause

from the more-and-more-ads dept

The TV industry is certainly skilled when it comes to ignoring the will of the customer. You'll recall that as the cord cutting and ratings free fall began, the sector's very first impulse was to double down on a lot of bad ideas, from mindlessly raising rates, to editing down programs or speeding them up to shove more ads into each viewing hour. And as new innovations like ad skipping DVR technology emerged, the industry's very first impulse was to first sue companies in a bid to ban the tech, then "innovate" by charging users more if they did want to skip ads.

This week, both AT&T and Hulu (which AT&T now owns a chunk of via its Time Warner merger) unveiled their latest "innovation" in delivering ads that users don't want: ads that run when you press pause and leave the room. According to AT&T, the tech should emerge sometime next year for its DirecTV and IPTV (formerly branded U-Verse) TV customers:

"AT&T also has hopes to use the pause to lend new momentum to TV advertising. The company, which owns DirecTV and U-verse, expects to launch technology next year that puts a full-motion video on a screen when a user decides to take a respite. “We know you’re going to capture 100% viewability when they pause and unpause,” says Matt Van Houten, vice president of product at Xandr Media, AT&T’s advertising division. “There’s a lot of value in that experience."

Said "value" will certainly be in the eye of the beholder. Consumers that have made it clear they don't want to pay an arm and a leg for traditional TV and watch ads aren't going to be particularly thrilled to engage in another, entirely new layer of ads. And the "value" of layering more ads when users press pause and (usually) leave the room certainly isn't going to be any kind of panacea for the problems that plague the sector (high prices, too many ads, terrible customer service, bloated & inflexible pay TV lineups, and sagging ratings).

For its part, AT&T makes the case that you'll need some additional advertising in streaming because low subscription prices aren't enough to pay for content development in the streaming era:

"At a September conference held for advertisers, AT&T executives made the case that even new forms of video entertainment – including streaming – require ad support. “If we are to continue this pace of developing content of this quality in these volumes, then we need advertising to pay for some of the content,”said Brian Lesser, chief executive of the company’s Xandr unit, while speaking to reporters at the event. “I don’t believe – nor does anybody on the team believe – that subscription video on demand services could possibly pay for all the content being developed” without relying on money from advertising."

While that might be true, it's worth noting that AT&T's not trialing this technology on its streaming platforms (like DirecTV Now), it's implementing it on its traditional IPTV and satellite TV services, which usually cost consumers (on average) upwards of $100+ per month. Forcing additional advertising on customers already annoyed by high prices isn't the path to winning back frustrated customers. Meanwhile, AT&T has no problem raising subscription rates on streaming anyway; the company just got done implementing a streaming price hike before the ink on its last merger was even dry, and is already hinting at another round of hikes.

When you face real competition (something that's a little alien to AT&T), you don't get to choose when you compete on price and features. That's why some wings of the cable and broadcast sector have finally started actually lowering the ad load in a bid to keep people from switching to streaming alternatives to heading to piracy. And while it's true the sector needs to innovate around advertising, hitting already frustrated users with even more ads (when they're probably not even in the room) doesn't seem like the best path forward.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 10:51am

    Since Hulu lets you pickup a show at whatever part you exited the app at, instead of pausing I'm now just going to close out of the app as needed, and continue my show ad free.

    Boom. Someone should pay me to point out the flaws in all of these shitty ideas.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      Alternate option: program a smart remote to mute your speakers when you push the pause button. Done.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:20pm

      Re:

      I have the ad-free version of Hulu now, but back before that was a thing, I distinctly remember that if I closed and restarted a show, they'd make me sit through the same damn commercial again.

      This was particularly infuriating in the era of constant Flash crashes.

      There was at least one occasion where I spent 20 minutes trying to start an episode of Community, sitting through the same commercial, getting a Flash crash, reloading the page, and going through the whole damn process again before saying "fuck it, I tried to do this the legal way" and then torrenting the rest of the season.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 7 Dec 2018 @ 7:46am

      Re:

      Honestly, I think a better solution would just be to hit the 'stop' button and turn the TV off until you get back.

      Congrats AT&T, I now press 2 buttons instead of 1 to pause my shows, and I'm still not watching any of your ads.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2018 @ 9:57am

      Re:

      instead of pausing I'm now just going to close out of the app as needed

      ...which, in future versions, will trigger a 3-millisecond-long auction through which companies will bid to show you ads on the new "goodbye" screen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AricTheRed, 6 Dec 2018 @ 10:53am

    So... What are they gonna do when...

    So...

    What are they gonna do now when you select fast forward, just show you the ads you missed while paused?

    "Well Bob I wouldn't say I was missing it."

    - Mr. Peter Gibbons, Innitech Software Programmer

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 11:09am

      Re: So... What are they gonna do when...

      They already do that. If you don't pay the extra fee to view ad-free then fast-forwarding on Hulu will show you the ads you skipped before continuing your show.

      They didn't miss a thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2018 @ 10:02am

      Re: So... What are they gonna do when...

      What are they gonna do now when you select fast forward

      You can bet any DVR provided by your cable company will contain innovative new forms of advertising, soon enough. The whole time you're holding that button they're gonna have a picture-in-picture ad. Rewind, pause, program listings, same thing. If you've seen the movie "Idiocracy" (same author as Office Space), you've seen what the screen will look during the final days of cable TV—to the few people who, for whatever reason, still didn't cancel.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 10:55am

    in a bid to keep people from switching to streaming alternatives to heading to piracy.

    Should that be "or heading to piracy"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 11:12am

    During a time in which large numbers of subscribers are leaving, what is a good policy to implement?

    Oh - I know ... how about we piss off subscribers even more - that's the ticket!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 6 Dec 2018 @ 11:32am

    I cant believe you continue to get this wrong!!

    The tv industry is very good at listening to their customers. Their customers want eyeballs, even when viewers hit mute or change the channel. Comcast has even figured out how to get their product to pay for the privelege of being sold.

    The only tv channels where you are the customer are services like netflix or hbo now. We will see how long that lasts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 11:48am

      Re:

      "Their customers want eyeballs"? I think you have that backwards.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 11:57am

        Re: Re:

        His point is that their customers are ad buyers, and those are the eyeballs they want. We are the customers of those ads, or so he says. There is a point in there, but when AT&T has no more viewers they will also have no more customers, either ad buyers or us.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:08pm

    Please explain how TV skipping adds is any different than internet add blocking.

    Half the sites from legacy news sources and from main stream media refuse access if they detect an add blocker.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:36pm

      Re:

      If they want to skip adds they can just subtract a negative number. But that would require a lot of the sites to change their maths.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:00pm

        Re: Re:

        You missed my point as I was not asking a technical question.

        It appears that more and more the object of mainstream media is to monetize news and information under the assumption that the mainstream media (MSM) has a monopoly on news and it does not matter the form of delivery MSM is demanding rent on news delivery.

        The problem for MSM is I do not need or want the propaganda they call news so I simply do not visit or tune in.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 7 Dec 2018 @ 7:42am

      Re:

      And I hit the back button and refuse to visit those sites again that do that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:21pm

    So they are now using more of your bandwidth?

    I bet they are forcing users to pay for the privilege of streaming those unwanted ads too as it would apply towards your bandwidth caps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ven, 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:23pm

    I just want some quite

    What if I'm pausing the show to quite the TV without missing any of the show? I almost only watch traditional TV with other people, most of the time we pause is so we can make some comment about the show.

    I'm guessing their next innovation will be to make the mute button turn **up** the volume if a commercial is playing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    B!^ch broke my radio!, 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:37pm

    Advertising in the US is geneally out of control

    I am American, but have lived in Europe for the last 20 years. It is absolutely shocking to me when I visit my parents in the US how much (exceedingly annoying) advertising they have to put up with.

    - Like the internet? How about so many advertisements that your web experience is seriously impaired - even with a good ad blocker. I don't know why, but I had so many more ads in my browser while in the US than in Europe - despite using the same PC in both locations. I allow Techdirt's advertisements because they are non-intrusive and I want to support the team's efforts, but for the rest of the US, my god are you poor souls ever inundated with crap!
    - driving on the motorway? How about a billboard every 10 yards (illegal in Europe as they are a distraction while driving)
    - have a home phone? How about so many marketing calls per day that you don't even answer the phone unless you know the caller? (illegal in Europe, but we went too far - I have to sign a waiver so that the garage can call me when my car repairs are done)
    - Have a mobile phone? How about freakishly insightful targeted ads from every place that you visit that day? (have never seen anything like this in Europe and it only seems to happen on US phones....)
    - have a TV? How about an add every 20 seconds? (Most EU countries limit the percentage of a show that can be used for advertising and they limit the number and duration of commercial breaks per half hour)
    - Taking public transport, or god help you, flying with a US airline? besides the privileges of being in some of the most depressing vehicles you have ever seen, with shitty service on top, why not cap it off with a hefty dose of in your face advertising at every available opportunity? (ok, the UK is not much better, but the rest of Europe is still a far nicer experience than anything I have seen in the US. Imagine being able to proudly say that you took the train to work.... )


    End effect is that when I am in the US, I feel like I am getting sensory override at every corner. You get sensitized to it though. My wife and I often comment about the amount of advertising that you are constantly bombarded with and my parents always say "gee we didn't even notice". Advertising is a fine way to support a business, but in my mind is a prime area where government regulation can have a massive (and positive) influence on the average Joe's life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dan (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:41pm

    Some will like this...

    My mom (rest her soul), would have loved this idea.

    She was deathly afraid of screen burn in. She would raise the riot act, even if we paused to pee. (In spite of reassurances from her techno-son.)

    Anything to keep motion on the screen was a good thing in her book. And there are other techno-illiterates still out there who are going to think the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 7:08pm

      Re: Some will like this...

      How OLD are you.. seven? I mean screen burn in has only really been an issue for the past 20 years?? Oh well, I just wanted to run this by you LIKE AN ADVERTISEMENT!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 7 Dec 2018 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re: Some will like this...

        ...did you mean screen burn-in hasn't been an issue for the past 20 years?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2018 @ 1:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: Some will like this...

          Burn-in still happens with modern screens, though not nearly to the extent it did with old ones. If you've always had a taskbar at the bottom of your screen, and you move it, you might see a very faint afterimage for a few hours. Pausing for less than a few hours shouldn't be a concern at all.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2018 @ 7:02pm

        Re: Re: Some will like this...

        Sorry about your Mom.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:46pm

    We really really need someone to slap these people.

    The correct answer is to offer fewer commercial slots for higher prices. If you keep cramming more and more in you're gonna end up with less and less viewers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      SpanglePants the Mildly Magnificent, 7 Dec 2018 @ 4:06am

      Re:

      The other correct answer is to attract enough customers so that the low subscription prices cover the cost of programming.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 12:53pm

    I see another problem in this idea. Oftentimes people pause what they are watching when someone else begins talking to them, so they can quickly stop the noise without losing track of what they're watching.

    Given that, the problem is clear. It brings more noise and movement when they wanted it to stop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Angel (profile), 7 Dec 2018 @ 12:11am

      Re:

      This is me. Sometimes, my hubby doesn't know how to wait until the end of the episode to talk about something in it and I'm very familiar with the pause button for this very reason. I don't need advertisements while trying to hear what he's saying (which I might already be slightly annoyed by). Things like this is why piracy continues to be a thing, at least the pirates put out commercial free content.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      E., 7 Dec 2018 @ 7:48am

      Re:

      Exactly. Same goes with muting said commercials when being unable to fast forward them. Anyone want to guess that they'll try to make it so people are unable to mute said commercials? They already make it if you move to another page online, that said commercial will stop playing until you get back on the page to watch it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FUCK.LAZYhollywood, 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:03pm

    and also what makes this worse

    more ads , less show time = worse stories , and less show....gilligans island when it was on was 55 minutes in a hour NOW you look at 40 minutes per hour and wonder why tv shows suck ass...thatis the big reason RIGHT THERE

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Professor Ronny, 7 Dec 2018 @ 8:10am

      Re: and also what makes this worse

      gilligans island when it was on was 55 minutes in a hour

      Actually Gilligan's Island was a 30 minute show.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:03pm

    Pause

    From an advertiser's point of view, I don't know why I'd even want to pay for this.

    When people hit Pause, it's because they're usually getting up to do something-- use the restroom, pop popcorn, answer the phone, etc.-- and almost by definition, won't be paying any attention to an ad that starts running when the button is pushed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:27pm

      Re: Pause

      They're betting on the other side of it. When you come *back*, it's on-screen until you hit Pause again, then you're forced to sit through it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2018 @ 10:04am

      Re: Pause

      I can't see why they wouldn't want to pay. With many forms of advertising, they don't even know whether you see/hear it. With this, they know you're near the TV when you pause and unpause. And they'll be yelling snack suggestions at you while you're in the kitchen.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:08pm

    Damn those annoying television shows! They keep getting in the way of advertising!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:14pm

    I certainly hope that these ads do not have sound.

    I pause my DirecTV to answer the phone for two reasons: to keep where I left off in the show and to mute the sound. I don't want to be forced to hit two buttons before answering a call.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:21pm

    If it was just a banner ad with no audio, I would find that acceptable but much of the time I am pausing is to have a conversation so an ad with audio would defeat the purpose of pausing it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      It's a high bar to ask people to read the article before commenting. I guess it's just plain unreasonable to expect they'd read the existing comments first, too.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 7 Dec 2018 @ 7:01am

      Re: Give them an inch...

      If the ad is taking up bandwidth that they are also counting towards my cap, not going to happen. Doesn't matter if they are mute, static or even funny. My grandfather didn't join the Navy and fight for this country, to let government-backed monopolies take another few dollars per month from all of the old men and women who have no choice.

      I can't wait for Musk's satellite system to get up and running so these dinosaurs can finally die off and be a lesson for future generations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:21pm

    For even more fun they can make it so that the current ad will finish playing when you hit the unpause button. Which, I suspect, will quickly lead to people hitting the unsubscribe button.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 1:28pm

    ads that run when you press pause and leave the room.

    Well, I wouldn't mind that if they actually did it. However, if they play ads when I pause to have a conversation about what I just saw, answer the phone, see to a medical emergency, etc. I'm going to be pretty pissed if they think I've left the room and start playing ads drowning out conversation.

    What's next: apps that play ads when you attempt to close them?

    Ads while paused already breaks industry standard rules like "control interfaces with an accepted industry use must not be co-opted for another purpose." The FTC could lay some pretty heavy fines on these guys if they ignore that sort of thing... plus they'll find that security software starts detecting their players.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 6 Dec 2018 @ 2:16pm

    Dear god...WHY?

    "According to AT&T, the tech should emerge sometime next year for its DirecTV and IPTV (formerly branded U-Verse) TV customers: "

    I cant wait for it to be on ATT Cellphones..
    At the Tone, you will hear a 20 second Advert.

    do any of the ATT, Execs WATCH TV???

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 2:33pm

      Re: Dear god...WHY?

      Hah... If they are like in other companies they will be like "Hey I want it ad free for my house."

      *Experience from execs who want special treatment on their IT equipment... They are grown important men who don't need stupid firewalls or are too busy to remember a new password 3 times a year*

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 2:27pm

    The glorious future...

    *Ad pops up on tv, camera turns on*

    "Hello John Smith - Does your blue eyes and blond hair make you depressed? try contacts and hair dye from Nellies"

    "Don't let the fact that you got fired today stop you. Try JobGoggles.com"

    *John Smith leaves room and goes to bathroom*
    *Mirror turns into screen while on toilet*

    "Are you sad that your penis is so small - Dr Giggles and Sons can help you"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 6 Dec 2018 @ 4:54pm

    Great.

    If you thought the suicide rate among goldfish alarming before, be prepared for an entirely new ball game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 6:43pm

    At$t should have gone away eons ago, but its been getting its ass licked by the government so long it looks like they aren't going away anytime soon. And that is unfortunate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2018 @ 7:38pm

    Techdirt! I have enjoyed very much sitting at the foot of this monster's (at&t) cave, throwing rocks into the opening! Thank you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    smadav 2019 new version, 7 Dec 2018 @ 4:28am

    Smadav 2019 antivirus is one of the best local dipercata can keep our computer from the attacks of various viruses or malware that is quite annoying. But its ability to keep our computer or laptop is also quite powerful. Moreover Smadav 2019 this is known as an antivirus that is very light, even you will not feel install anvitivirus in your computer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 7 Dec 2018 @ 6:10am

    I've said it before

    Advertising eventually destroys every medium it touches.

    Radio. TV. Cable. Magazines. DVD. Billboards.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ShadowNinja (profile), 7 Dec 2018 @ 7:45am

      Re: I've said it before

      And idiots keep flinging more money at it even though it's gotten less and less effective overtime.

      Seriously, broadcast TV ratings have collapsed in the last 2 decades, but advertisers are paying significantly more per viewer than they were 2 decades ago (even when adjusted for inflation).

      The most ironic part about ads is that people are actually skipping ads less on TV now, but only because they're too busy on their phones to pay attention to the ads.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Gwiz (profile), 7 Dec 2018 @ 8:31am

    I have already noticed something similar on my Verizon Android phone. There is an really annoying app named "Peel Remote" that was a factory install on my phone that I cannot completely remove (as far as I have determined) unless I root my phone. Every couple of days it gets automatically updated from the Play Store and starts showing annoying ads on my "swipe to unlock" screen. I have to manually go into Play Store and remove the updates to make it stop.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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