Pay-per-view could get more literal

Want to hit rewind and replay that great sporting moment again? Gonna cost ya. Trying to fast forward through commercials? Pay up buddy.

That’s the world we could be living in if a recently-published Microsoft patented technology becomes adopted by cable firms.

Entitled “Control-based content pricing”, the heart of the concept is that a “content server receives a view control input from the client device that indicates how the media content is to be rendered and the valuation application adjusts the cost according to the view control input and how the media content is to be rendered.”

Translated into plain English, that means your remote control turns into a cash register. The key is that the “rendering” of the content means you don’t just pay for the right to watch it, but also for the way in which you watch it. The wording of the patent is broad enough that it could cover internet content, cable on demand services, or possibly even a DVR.

The patent contains a few specific examples, such as being able to charge extra for replaying content, which could simply mean paying for each time you watch a show, but could also mean paying an additional fee to replay a clip.

The suggested use that will attract the most interest among cable firms is the possibility of tracking whether or not the viewer has watched a commercial (or at least left it playing while leaving the room or turning their attention elsewhere) and then either cutting the cost if they view, or putting it up if they don’t view. Call be cynical, but my money would be on the latter.

It’s important to note — and Microsoft has stressed — that the patent being granted merely shows Microsoft is claiming credit for the idea and doesn’t mean there’s any specific talks to use it in reality. Still, it’s hard to see how cable companies won’t be pleased by the thought that such a thing is at least technically viable, even though it would be a tough sell to customers.

The news will likely be particularly unwelcomed for viewers of the recent British drama series Black Mirror, which included an episode titled 15 Million Merits that involved citizens being forced to watch advertisements (with an unbearable audible attack if they closed their eyes) unless they paid a financial penalty.

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10 Responses to Pay-per-view could get more literal

  1. yeah… that way people get away from television and depend on netflix and hulu(annoying with the ads…) instead.

    "The suggested use that will attract the most interest among cable firms is the possibility of tracking whether or not the viewer has watched a commercial (or at least left it playing while leaving the room or turning their attention elsewhere) and then either cutting the cost if they view, or putting it up if they don’t view. "

    are you saying that if viewers "watch" the commercials, pricing would be lowered? as far as i knew, businesses pay to have their commercials aired in hopes that the consumer sees this, how would skipping commercials affect the cable companies? these are already paid for and i think it is pretty well known that commercials are the part of a show where you go and grab a drink, work on some chores, return to your game, or do homework

    • I think the assumption is that businesses would pay more to place their ads knowing that the cable company was taking steps to encourage viewers to watch them. So the cable company wins either way.

      All the more reason to leave the screen behind and do something more productive with our time.

  2. You missed the part where they said the internet content would also be affected. That just means Netflix and Hulu would end up charging more every time someone tried to skip an ad, or rewatch a favorite show.

    Oh, and just how the hell would the cable companies know someone wasn't sitting in front of their televisions watching the ads. Do they have spy cameras in televisions now? Seriously?

  3. Microsoft patent…. They already have the Kinect camera system…

    Wouldn't be hard, or expensive for TV makers to include web cameras in their new tv's either.

  4. Hopefully something like this would never come into effect. we pay our TV license and our sky plus,virgin media etc for this privilege of rewinding or recording. There is no need to go ahead with something like this

  5. You know who I see jumping on this? Jim Dolan of Cablevision. He seems like the guy who most wants to nickle and dime his users. CVC is still the only cable company I know of that charges users a fee for premium on demand channels on top of of the fee you pay for subscribing to them. It won't surprise me at all.

  6. Ugh. I guess it was gonna happen eventually, but still. I remember when cable was the thing to get because you got fewer-if any-commercials and a butt-load of awesome channels. Cable is so wide spread now, we shouldn't have any commercials at all and the quality of TV ought to have gotten better… the fact that it's gone in the complete opposite direction proves that system is broken. Possibly there's just not enough competition, and/or the cable companies are ganging up to prevent customers from reaping the benefits of a larger profit pool. :-/

  7. That's when I stop having Cable, stop watching Netflix and Hulu and only buy/borrow DVDs and watch those. Talk about invading privacy.

  8. Do this all you want. I'll just hack around it with my HTPC. I'll record the thing commercials and all and use my own playback hardware to strip out your controls. Sad for all the people using boxes provided by the cable co if it happens.

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