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Apple working on ad-skipping tech

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LOS ANGELES -- Apple is developing ad-skipping technology that would let owners of its Apple TV set-top box and future television devices watch shows without commercials, people with knowledge of the matter said.

Apple executives have briefed at least two owners of broadcast TV networks and cable channels, as well as some of the biggest U.S. pay-TV systems, said the people, who asked not to be identified. One proposal is for Apple to reimburse programmers for skipped ads, they said.

The company is seeking to develop TV products with broader appeal than Apple TV, a set-top device purchased by 13 million consumers, chief executive officer Tim Cook said in May at the D: All Things Digital conference. Apple TV is more appropriate for "hobbyists" than mainstream viewers, he said. Apple continues to work on a "grand vision" to update TV-viewing that remains "much like 10 or 20 years ago," Cook said.

Jessica Lessin, a technology writer, reported Tuesday that Apple was working on the ad-skipping initiative.

With advertising accounting for the largest share of their revenue, commercially supported TV networks have resisted skipping technology.

Dish Network Corp. introduced ad-skipping for broadcast network TV shows in its Hopper TV set-top box in March 2012. 21st Century Fox Inc., Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal and CBS Corp. sued, claiming the service will destroy free, over-the-air prime-time television. Dish sued the networks in New York, seeking a court ruling that it isn't infringing copyrights.

Almost three-quarters of consumers in a survey cited the ability to skip commercials as a main reason to use a digital video recorder, Motorola Mobility said in its annual media-engagement barometer released on March 19.

Apple has also been working to license more content for people to watch via Apple TV. In June, it announced deals to offer apps from Time Warner Inc.'s HBO and Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN to customers who already receive those channels from cable or satellite pay-TV services.

The maker of iPhones and iPods is also reaching out to cable services, which buy content from media companies such as Disney. It is nearing a deal with Time Warner Cable Inc. that would let subscribers of that cable system watch channels on Apple TV, people have told Bloomberg. The companies plan to announce an agreement within the next few months, those people said earlier.

Accessing content from the Internet on a TV has become common since Apple introduced Apple TV in 2007. According to Leichtman Research Group, 44 per cent of U.S. households have a TV set connected to the Internet through a video-game console, Blu-ray player or streaming devices such as Roku and Apple TV. That's up from 38 per cent a year ago, the researcher said.

More competition is coming. Intel plans to begin selling a set-top box with Web-based pay-TV service by the end of the year.

-- Bloomberg News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2013 B8

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