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Microsoft seeks patent for TV-viewing tolls

The software company filed for a patent on technology that would let content owners charge people if they skip over commercials or replay on-screen action.

Microsoft has created technology that could raise the price of a movie or TV show if a TV viewer skips past ads.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft has filed for a new patent called "control-based content pricing" that will enable content owners to charge users for skipping over ads or watching a replay.

On its face, the description of the technology doesn't sound like a great consumer proposition, to say the least.

"If a user initiates a navigation control input to advance past (e.g., skip over) an advertisement, the cost of a requested on-demand movie may be increased," Microsoft said in the application. A Microsoft representative was not immediately available for comment.

But Microsoft says just because the company filed for the patent doesn't mean we'll see a product like this anytime soon.

"Microsoft regularly applies for and receives patents as part of its business practice," Microsoft said in a statement. "Not all patents applied for or received will be incorporated into a Microsoft product."

Todd Bishop at Geekwire is reporting that the patent application was filed in November and recently surfaced. The technology builds on an existing patent that was issued to Microsoft in 2011, according to the blog.

From the application:

For example, if a user initiates a navigation control input to advance past (e.g., skip over) an advertisement, the cost of a requested on-demand movie may be increased. Similarly, if a user initiates a replay of a sporting event, the user may be charged for the replay control input and for each subsequent view control input. This provides an advertisement revenue model that reflects user viewing choices and selections during playback of requested on-demand media, and enables targeted advertising and media content delivery, while maintaining consumer privacy.

Control-based content pricing allows for user-personalized pricing where price is a direct function of user viewing interaction. Further, the pricing may be expressed as a debit function, such as a debit to receive an on-demand movie, or as a credit function, such as a credit to watch an advertisement or infomercial before receiving the on-demand movie. The credit and/or debit functions of the pricing may also be based on view control inputs, such as content navigation inputs, received as user-input commands initiated with a remote control device.

Geekwire has a diagram from the filing.

Update 2 p.m. PT: To include Microsoft's statement.