Feature Article

August 01, 2013

Content Providers' Newest Nightmare: Aristarchos' Commercial Break App

Pretty much since the dawn of television—at least the dawn of showing advertisements on television—viewers have tried to get around said advertising and keep the flow of entertainment as uninterrupted as possible. But from the earliest days of using commercial breaks as bathroom breaks, to the modern era of DVRs and time-shifting, advertisers have fought to keep up. Now there's a new weapon for the advertisers to take on: Aristarchos' Commercial Break app.

The Commercial Break app is making its debut on iOS devices, and it's designed to be used as an early-warning system to let users know when a commercial break is coming to an end. For now, the app is free, and focuses on what's described as “a select group of channels”—more specifically, the New York broadcast feeds for major networks NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox, as well as national cable feeds on TNT, TBS, USA, and both ESPN and ESPN2.

The company behind Commercial Break, Aristarchos, envisions a bright future for its little early warning app, with plans to not only expand it outward as an app, bringing a version to Android devices eventually, but also to expand the app's overall capabilities. According to the CEO and co-founder of Aristarchos, Haim Kairy, the plan is to have the device monitor more markets' worth of channels—including locals in major markets like Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and several others—as well as more cable channels. It's all a matter, said Kairy, of having the necessary hardware in place to monitor the channels in question.

But there's perhaps an even more unusual use for such a technology, in that it could be added readily to set-top boxes and the like, showing the user, at a glance, when a commercial break is about to end on a channel previously being watched while the user is off watching something else that isn't commercials in the meantime. It's somewhat similar in nature to the AutoHop technology that Dish Network has installed in its Hopper HD-DVR system, though reports indicate that AutoHop requires some manual input while the Commercial Break system is fully automated.

Image via Shutterstock

Aristarchos is already, at last report, working with a cloud DVR company—though just which company isn't yet being named—on bringing the Commercial Break technology to a cloud DVR system, which will essentially allow users to skip commercials at a touch of a button rather than manual fast-forwarding. The company, according to Kairy, is “anticipating some static,” though it is “very confident on the legal side.” The company is out to raise some further seed funding as it looks to acquire new hardware and expand its staff from its current stock of two.

The battle between advertisers and viewers who don't want to see advertising is almost as old as television itself. With new methods of getting around the commercial break coming out almost every day, and advertisers fighting these new methods tooth and claw, the end result is going to be much like we see it today.

Viewers are looking for a way to keep the entertainment coming. Advertisers, who basically pay for the whole thing, want access to the viewers in exchange. Perhaps the result will have to be one of a more creative access point, like product placement within programs themselves; a Coke billboard on a driving scene, or characters drinking Coke in the show itself. But either way, neither side of this particular conflict is likely to back down, and that makes things like Commercial Break particularly valuable to viewers.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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