Commercial Skipping


Commercial skipping is an advanced feature in some digital video recorders that makes it possible to automatically skip commercials in recorded programs. This feature has created controversy, with major television networks and movie studios claiming it violates copyright and should be banned. For many years, video recorders manufactured for the Japanese market have been able to skip advertisements automatically, which is done by detecting when foreign language audio overdub tracks provided for many programs go silent, as advertisements were broadcast with a single language only.

The first DVR which had a built-in Commercial skipping feature was ReplayTV with its ‘4000 Series’ and ‘5000 Series’ units. In 2002 five owners of the ReplayTV DVR sued the main television networks and movie studios, asking the federal judge to uphold consumers’ rights to record TV shows and skip commercials claiming that features like commercial skipping help parents protect their kids from excessive consumerism. ReplayTV ended up filing for bankruptcy in 2003 after fighting a copyright infringement suit over the ReplayTV’s ability to skip commercials.

In addition to the PVR devices which existed in the private market since the late 1990s, towards the mid-2000s, due to the significant advances in home computers, Home theater PCs started gaining popularity in the private market and many users began using their Home theater PCs in their living room for entertainment purposes. Following this, many PVR programs were developed, including popular programs such as Windows Media Center, which contained all of the features of the PVR devices in addition to advanced features such as HDTV and the use of Multiple TV Tuner Cards. However, evidently many users who used their PVR software to archive their programs found out that the recorded files took up large amounts of hard disk space. Due to this some independent developers began developing independent third-party software capable of skipping the commercial segments from recorded videos as well as permanently removing the commercial segments from the recorded video files.

Many popular PVR programs, such as Windows Media Center, SageTV and MythTV have the ability to skip commercials segments after installing third-party add-ons, such as DVRMSToolbox, Comskip and ShowAnalyzer which use various advanced techniques to locate the commercial segments in the video files and save their locations to text files. With help of that information many users have the ability to skip the commercials within recorded TV broadcasts. In addition to that, these text files can also be fed into programs such as MEncoder or DVRMSToolboxGUI which are capable of permanently removing the commercial segments from the recorded video files and thus help reduce the recorded videos file size without losing the video quality.

One of the major weaknesses of those third-party programs is that because most of them operate automatically, occasionally they would mistakenly remove parts of the show in addition to the commercials segments. Also, most of those third-party programs do not allow manual fine-tuning of the commercial segments locations by the users before the actual removal is done.

In 2012, Dish Network began offering a DVR with what it calls AutoHop. The device would automatically skip commercials when displaying programming that the viewer had previously recorded with the PrimeTime Anytime feature. It does not skip ads on any live programs. Broadcasters were angered at the news, and FOX stated they were evaluating legal action.

The introduction of digital video recorders, such as TiVo, and services like Sky+, which allow the recording of television programs onto a hard drive, also enable viewers to fast-forward through advertisements or automatically skip commercials of recorded programs. Many speculate that television advertisements will be eliminated altogether, replaced by advertising in the TV shows themselves. Additional streaming services like ‘Hulu’ require viewers to watch shorter advertisements with some changes like a countdown timer and tailoring to the viewers interests, asking interactive questions like ‘Is this ad relevant to you?’

One Comment to “Commercial Skipping”

  1. TV networks should have gotten the idea by now that people just don’t like to watch commercials when they are trying to watch their favorite shows. With so many ad-skipping features around, it’s probably about time for them to start innovating in the advertising department. I really like what I’ve been getting with the Hopper’s Auto Hop feature, and love the fact that I get to choose if I want to watch commercials or not on some of my PrimeTime Anytime recordings. I thought my coworkers at DISH were messing with me too, when they told me about it back in May. It just sounded way too good to be true, but I’m happy now that it’s real. My favorite part about it is all the time I save not having to watch commercials, and how I don’t have to worry about finding my remote every five minutes to do so.

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