And You Thought DVD’s Were Bad?

If I ever encounter this kind of crap, I think we’re going to have to invent a new adjective to describe super-white-hot pissed-off.

If a new idea from Philips catches on, the company may not be very popular with TV viewers. The company’s labs in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, has been cooking up a way to stop people changing channels to avoid adverts or fast forwarding through ads they have recorded along with their target programme.

The secret, according to a new patent filing, is to take advantage of Multimedia Home Platform – the technology behind interactive television in many countries around the world. MHP software now comes built into most modern digital TV receivers and recorders. It looks for digital flags buried in a broadcast, and displays messages on screen that let the viewer call up extra features, such as additional footage or information about a programme.

Philips suggests adding flags to commercial breaks to stop a viewer from changing channels until the adverts are over. The flags could also be recognised by digital video recorders, which would then disable the fast forward control while the ads are playing.

Philips’ patent acknowledges that this may be “greatly resented by viewers” who could initially think their equipment has gone wrong. So it suggests the new system could throw up a warning on screen when it is enforcing advert viewing. The patent also suggests that the system could offer viewers the chance to pay a fee interactively to go back to skipping adverts.

I predict many Elvis moments in the future of Philips products, should this crap make it to the market.  Heck, I was sorely tempted to shred my copy of Shrek 2 and send the pieces back to Dreamworks because of the damn unskippable advertisement at the beginning.  Listen carefully, marketdroids!  People are sick and tired of losing control over their own DVDs as it is.  We will not tolerate being forced to watch your asinine commercials or previews.  If I encounter such a device, I will be returning it with prejudice through your front window!

On a more serious note, a couple of interesting points came up in the Slashdot discussion about this article.  First, if you can rip a DVD (or otherwise “pirate” the content), you can often disable this sort of nonsense.  So if the controls become too obnoxious or onerous, it may likely encourage people to go around the content providers to get the content through “alternate” channels.  Second, adding these sorts of flags to advertisements might make it easier for home-brew/open-source DVR software to skip commercials.  A “this is a commercial” flag would be a major bonus for something like MythTV.

1 Comment

  1. Actually, Philips has been pretty good about things in the past.  They tried to get a petition drive going against the broadcast flag, I believe.

    Maybe they’re just filing this patent to prevent anybody else (like the broadcasters) from doing something like this.  I really don’t think Philips is stupid enough to slit their own throat, do you?