Streaming Services Planning On Bringing Commercials To Your Binging Pause Breaks

What's the one thing everyone loves about watching TV? That's right – commercials! Oh, wait, no. That's not true at all. But commercials pay the bills, and as streaming becomes more prominent than traditional TV, streaming services want in on that phat commercial cash. But how do you add commercials to a medium that is typically commercial free, without angering your subscribers? Some streamers think they've found the solution: playing commercials when viewers hit pause in between binging.

According to a report in Variety, Hulu and AT&T are both exploring options to insert commercials in between streaming binge breaks. Hulu plans to unveil "pause-ads" in 2019 – ads that will pop-up when users hit pause on whatever show they happen to be breezing through. "As binge-viewing happens more and more, it's natural they are going to want to pause," said Jeremy Helfand, vice president and head of advertising platforms for Hulu. "It's a natural break in the storytelling experience."

Meanwhile, AT&T, who own DirectTV, have plans to implement technology "that puts a full-motion video on a screen when a user decides to take a respite." "We know you're going to capture 100% viewability when they pause and unpause," saidMatt Van Houten, vice president of product at AT&T's advertising division. "There's a lot of value in that experience."

One of the best things about streaming is the lack of commercials, or at the very least, a limited amount of them. So if streamers must start inserting commercials somewhere, this might be the best option. If they only appear when the viewer pauses to take a break, there's a chance the viewer won't even see them. You can go about your business – getting a snack, going to the bathroom, staring off into the abyss, whatever – return, un-pause, and go right back to what you were watching. During that time you were away, a commercial break might be playing. Who's to say? If a commercial airs when no one is around to see it, does it make a sound?

"Pause ads" aren't a new idea. Tivo used to play banner ads whenever users paused a show they had recorded. And the fact of the matter is, if streaming is to continue and thrive, it needs more money. And that money will come from advertising. "If we are to continue this pace of developing content of this quality in these volumes, then we need advertising to pay for some of the content," said AT&Ts' Brian Lesser. "I don't believe – nor does anybody on the team believe – that subscription video on demand services could possibly pay for all the content being developed [without advertising]."

The days of commercial-free-streaming might be at an end.