April 20th, 2006

Philips' Invention Could Force You to Watch TV Commercials

By May Wong
Associated Press

In this era of easy ad skipping with digital video recorders, could television viewers one day be forced to watch commercials with a system that prevents channel-switching?

Yes, said Royal Philips Electronics. A patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said researchers of the Netherlands-based consumer electronics company has created a technology that could let broadcasters freeze up a channel during a commercial, so viewers would not be able to avoid it.

The pending patent, published March 30, said the feature would be implemented on a program-by-program basis. Devices that could carry the technology would be a television or a set-top-box.

Philips acknowledged, however, the anti-channel-changing technology might not sit well with consumers and suggested in its patent filing consumers be allowed to avoid the feature if they paid broadcasters a fee.

On Wednesday, company officials issued a statement that noted the technology also enables the opposite: allowing viewers to watch television without advertising. The intention was never to force viewers to watch ads against their will, the company said of the technology.

“We developed a system where the viewer can choose, at the beginning of a movie, to either watch the movie without ads, or watch the movie with ads,” the company said.

“It is up to the viewer to take this decision and up to the broadcaster to offer the various services.”

The company also said it has no plans to implement the technology in any of its products.

Philips only wanted to provide the technology and seek the patent as part of the broader developments within the industry, said Philips spokesman Andre Manning. 

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