What do you do during television commercial breaks?
Unless the commercials are extraordinarily interesting, I tune out and start doing something else. I play games on my iPad, change the channel, or start skimming Facebook. I’m easily bored, and the reality is, most of the commercials just aren’t relevant to me. I don’t care one iota about Rick’s Roofing Service or Dove Care for women.
A new startup called Skipr wants to make commercial breaks actually relevant to viewers. Or, as they say on their site, Skipr is, “…about making TV productive.” Whether or not, “Productive” is what I want out of television, worthless commercials are definitely what I don’t, so they’ve got my attention.
The Skipr box sits between your existing DVR or cable/satellite box and your television. Instead of allowing commercials to play as normal, it ensures that you are fed “relevant” content during breaks in programming. Not just in a “more relevant commercials” kind of way. In a “almost any type of other content you’d want” kind of way.
Using Cloud Services and an Android application that runs on Android TV hardware, Skipr analyzes television networks in real-time and identifies commercial breaks. You, the watcher, can then choose what to see and how you want to spend the time.
You can watch SkipClips, which are YouTube videos that are specifically relevant to the show you’re watching. As CEO Zach Nelson puts it, “…if you’re watching HGTV you may get a SkipClip™ on the topic of home improvement.”
You can scan social feeds, check the weather, watch a soothing screensaver, play a game from Google Play, or if you happen to be watching sports, flip over to another game. When the commercial break is over, Skipr automatically returns you to what you were watching.
Skipr also syncs with your DVR and automatically skips recorded commercial breaks too.
The pricing plan will be the initial payment for the box itself and low monthly subscription cost. Currently the device only works with ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, although they plan to expand to more channels in the future.
As I ponder Skipr and the market it will inhabit, while it’s an awesome concept, I’m not sure if it solves enough consumer pain points to survive in the long run.
Commercials are already becoming irrelevant with the advent of streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and on-demand cable. Are commercials that much of a pain that people are willing to fork out the additional cash and investment in new technology to avoid them?
Additionally, cable is a decidedly older generation luxury, with Re/Code recently reporting that 24 percent of Millennials aren’t paying for cable services. Is Skipr solving a problem that won’t exist five years from now?
If current trends are any indicator, it won’t be too long before my generation won’t be consuming cable television at all. Skipr is the kind of technology Millennials are most likely to adopt and yet it offers a service that older generations are most likely to care about.
Another potential roadblock to wide adoption is the amount of configuration the Skipr seems to require. Recently I had to set up a Roku stick and was pissed off by the fact that I had to configure my WiFi network, which only involved entering a password. Configuring social media feeds, email accounts and Google Play apps seems like a bit of a headache. Only hardcore TV modders (is that a thing?) would get a kick out of endlessly configuring their two-minute-at-a-time watching options.
Finally, I’m not convinced that the alternatives to commercials offered by Skipr are all that great. SkipClips, email, stocks, or a soothing screensaver? I can get all those things on my iPad while the commercials are running in the background. I’m not inclined to pay money to just get those things on the same screen as my cable feed. Plus, it won’t be long before smart TVs are more prevalent and offer all these services anyway.
What is crystal clear is that Skipr is in a hot market and it feels like technology that all but seals the impending death of traditional TV. Alternatives to traditional television are so popular right now; Netflix is raising its prices yet again and HBO has launched HBO Now as just a few huge votes of confidence. Whether or not Skipr will actually compete in the existing market as is and as it will be remains to be seen. What it represents, however, is significant.
At the moment, they are taking email addresses for Beta signup.
Stephen Altrogge is a freelance writer based in Tallahassee, Florida. He writes about tech, marketing, faith, and lots of other things. He’s married to Jen and has three young girls. Every day he consumes more coffee than the entire population of Colombia. He knows more about Star Wars than any respectable man should, and he runs more than any sane man would. He once attempted to eat a 2 pound hamburger in under an hour. He failed.
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