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“Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should”

I say this a lot. Since the beginning of my professional television career, in 1984, I’ve probably said it to directors more than to any other person. Usually it had to do with the myriad of special effects available to them in their switcher.
Now I want to say this to the cable industry, because of a technology developed by Concurrent Computer Corporation.
Here’s the heading of Concurrent’s press release issued at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) show on June 14:
Concurrent Ad Insertion Solution Patent Maintains Advertisement Integrity, While Simultaneously Supporting Full Functionality for On-Demand Content: Unique Patent-Pending Technology Enables Predetermined Speed for Advertising Insertions, While Allowing the Viewer to Pause, Rewind and Fast-Forward On-Demand Programming.
In English, this means that ads can be inserted into on-demand “trick files” (the files that enable fast-forward and rewind) in cable DVR boxes so that those ads run at normal playback speed, even if the subscriber chooses to fast-forward or rewind the program when viewed as on-demand content.
The reason is simple: “to protect the investment of the advertiser and ensure that cable operators do not sacrifice advertising revenues when offering on-demand services,” according to Concurrent.
It will be impossible to skip the advertisements by fast-forwarding, since whether in normal or trick play, the advertisements play at the predetermined speed.
Here’s more from the release: “Furthermore, the pending patent application covers the insertion of alternative advertisements, if so desired, to better match the needs of the cable operator. For example, rather than playing a complete ad in fast-rewind mode, the inserted content could be a shorter ad, or a still, or the ad in forward rather than reverse. The possibilities are spectacular.”
The possibilities are also disastrous.
One of the benefits of a cable company DVR is not having to buy a TiVo-type PVR and paying its associated monthly or lifetime fee. Instead, subscribers with a cable DVR pay a nominal monthly fee.
But one of the reasons people want DVRs and PVRs (in addition to automatically recording a program and pausing live TV) is to skip the commercials in shows that are recorded. Skipping commercials ranks very high in DVR/PVR customer satisfaction with these devices.
But to protect their revenue, cable operators now have the ability (and the choice) to dissatisfy their customers by making it impossible to skip commercials and promos during on-demand content. Content ranging from movies-on-demand (MOD), video-on-demand (VOD), subscription VOD (SVOD), free-on-demand (FOD), and long-format advertising (LFA) to network-based digital video recording (NDVR) and high definition VOD (HDVOD).
Of course, just because a commercial or promo has to play, doesn’t mean that anyone has to watch it.
The interesting thing will be whether or not cable DVR customers served by cable operators who use Concurrent’s technology will complain. If they do it loud enough—and start to turn in their cable DVRs—the revenue secured by this technology could disappear.
Remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.