While most TV watchers see the pause button as a way to silence the television or maybe get up for a bathroom break, Hulu and AT&T see it as a way to sell more advertisements. According to Variety, both companies plan to introduce “pause ads” (Hulu’s term) or “pause-vertising” (Variety‘s term) next year.
“We know you’re going to capture 100% viewability when they pause and unpause,” Matt Van Houten, vice president of product at Xandr Media, AT&T’s ad division, told Variety. “There’s a lot of value in that experience.”
TV networks have been trying to figure out how to keep ads in front of viewers since the inception of the DVR, but the issue may be taking on greater urgency with the rise of ad-free streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Recent ideas include shorter ads, more dramatic ads, and picture-in-picture ads during live sports.
It’s not hard to imagine pause ads backfiring, however, especially if there’s no trade-off in the amount of regular commercial breaks that viewers get. Tampering with decades-old expectations for how the pause button should work could just send more people running to Netflix.