Headlines in UK newspapers suggest that satellite television operator BSkyB has plans that offer the prospect of ad-free viewing.
The stories, carried in the Telegraph and the Guardian, refer to British patents granted to BSkyB in April 2004 that are relevant to the Sky Plus personal video recorder.
While many users are known to fast forward through pre-recorded programmes to skip commercials, the patent covers the interruption of recording so that adverts are not recorded in the first place.
The patent observes that “Advertisements broadcast during interruptions of a television programme are generally geared to appeal to the potential viewers of the television programme. Since this is not a very exact science, it may be that in certain environments the broadcast advertisements do not appeal to the viewers at all, or do at least not use the full potential of the advertisement breaks.”
The patent refers to information signals that “may be decoded to interrupt the recording of programmes so as not to record adverts for example”.
The claim goes on to describe a mechanism by which a user may predetermine categories of advertisements that may be used to replace broadcast commercials.
Both approaches would be relatively simple to implement, but would be likely to provoke considerable consternation from the commercial television industry.
Sky receives the majority of its revenue from subscription and other fees rather than advertising, but new technology continues to threaten the economic basis of commercial television channels.
According to the various newspaper reports, Sky says it has no plans to deploy the new technology, suggesting that the intellectual property could be licenced if other parties wished to exploit the patent.