Forget about pay-per-view TV: Microsoft patents pay-per-viewer technology with your TV as the enforcer
Microsoft wants to know how many people are watching your TV – and charge you accordingly.
Back in June, Jeremy Phan wrote that Intel thinks that your TV should be watching you. And it seems that Microsoft thinks so too. A recently published patent titled Content Distribution Regulation By Viewing User details technology that would enable a camera-equipped device – such as a TV with a built-in camera or an Xbox Kinect – to regulate content on a per-user-view basis. The technology could limit the number of people able to simultaneously watch, restrict content based on age or enforce limitations on the number of times that media can be viewed. From the patent:
The technology, briefly described, is a content presentation system and method allowing content providers to regulate the presentation of content on a per-user-view basis. Content is distributed to consuming devices, such as televisions, set-top boxes and digital displays, with an associated licence option on the number of individual consumers or viewers allowed to consume the content. The limitation may comprise a number of user views, a number of user views over time, a number of simultaneous user views, views tied to user identities, views limited to user age or any variation or combination thereof, all tied to the number of actual content consumers allowed to view the content. Consumers are presented with a content selection and a choice of licenses allowing consumption of the content. In one embodiment, a licence manager on the consuming device or on a content providers system manages licence usage and content consumption. The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.
In other words, the current pay-per-view system would be replaced by a pay-per-user-view model. Want to have some friends around to watch a movie? You’ll need a multi-user license. Want to watch a movie more than once? You’ll need a multi-view license. Want to invite your buddies over and share the cost of a pay-per-view sports event? Forget about it!
Think the technology sounds insidious? It gets worse. The patent also covers mobile devices:
In the case of the mobile display device, the display 105 is generally designed for use by one person but it is possible that more than one person may be able to view content on the display 105. As such the consumer detector uses data from the camera or capture device 102 to determine the number of consumers. In one example, camera 102 is an RGB imaging camera and the consumer detector analyzes one or successive images from the camera to ensure that the licensed number of users per view is enforced.
Now, it should be noted that this “content distribution by regulation” technology may never actually materialize. It’s not at all unusual for companies to patent daft ideas that never end up as products. However, with the ad revenue stream under threat, this could well be a technology that TV networks are keen to embrace. Even if the technology isn’t brought to market, the patent certainly provides an interesting insight of the ideas being discussed within Microsoft – and what they’d like to do if consumers were to allow them to get away with it.
To digress slightly (okay, a lot), I recently discovered the comb over had been patented. Interesting. I wonder why the holders of the patent haven’t sued Donald Trump yet?
Anyway, what do you think about Microsoft’s Big Brother technology? Will pay-per-user-view eventually replace pay-per-view? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.