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WEEK IN REVIEW: AT&T and Hulu Launch “Pause” Ads, Amazon Starts Selling Chromecasts Again

1. AT&T and Hulu Launch “Pause” Ads

Given the popularity of binge viewing, both Hulu and AT&T decided that rather than bury their heads in the sand and pretend it wasn’t happening (you know, the usual TV industry response to change) they would actually try and come up with a way to work with it.

Hence “Pause Ads.”

Which are exactly what they sound like: ads that come on when you hit “pause” on the TV.

Why It Matters

While the idea of pause ads is solid in that it’s essentially making use of unused real estate, the execution is going to be interesting to follow.

Most people hit pause to get up and do something else: check email, tell see what the dog is barking about, use the bathroom, get a snack.

Now granted, that’s the same response to stimuli most people have at the start of a commercial break. But networks can at least pretend that people largely sit there and happily watch five-minute commercial blocks. (And to be fair, in many cases, they’re not pretending—it’s what people do, because inertia)

OTOH, hitting “pause” is an active measure by the viewer and thus they probably have a reason that they want to stop watching, even if it’s just to look up the name of the actor who’s playing the hotel clerk because they know they’ve seen her in something else recently.

Which means that getting them to actually pay attention to a commercial that runs during that pause is going to be even harder.

Though that is not necessarily a bad thing.

It means that brands are (shock) going to have to make really good commercials. The types of ads that people will actually put off going to the bathroom to watch. The sort of ads that have benefits for the brand that go way beyond winning pause ads, because once everyone’s figured out the data thing (and they will) it’s going to be the brands that can do creative better that will win the day. (Not to mention making ad agency creative departments relevant again.)

So there’s that.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser and you really like your ad campaign, this is a great opportunity to get it in front of people who are likely to sit still and watch it. It’s also a way to experiment with a new use of the television medium before everyone else jumps onto the bandwagon.

If you’re other networks, this will be a great learning experience for you, to watch to see what Hulu and AT&T do right, what they need to improve and how viewers and brands are reacting to pause ads.

If you’re Hulu and AT&T, then kudos, because innovation is always a good thing and it takes guts to be brave and take chances.


2. Amazon Starts Selling Chromecasts Again

You’ve no doubt gotten sick of hearing us say that Roku’s success is in large part due to their being the “Switzerland of streaming devices.”

But it’s true.

To wit: Just this month, Amazon agreed to start selling Chromecast devices again. You know, now that no one might actually want one

Why It Matters

Roku’s success is fairly astounding: they took on Apple, Amazon and Google and won. And it wasn’t that their devices were allthat much better, though if you want proof of the value of a clean, easy to use interface that’s designed for consumers, look no further than Roku.

What took Roku over the top (see what we did there?) was the fact that the other three players have been busy beefing with each other for the last three or four years.

Apple wouldn’t let Amazon Prime on Apple TV. Amazon wouldn’t sell Chromecast. Then there was some sort of contretemps and Amazon blocked the official YouTube app from FireTV. Or maybe Google held it back. (There’s so much finger pointing it’s hard to keep track.)

Meanwhile, Roku is dominating the U.S. streaming device market and making significant headway on the TV OS market too, controlling 25% of that. Amazon isn’t all that far behind (the power of being the world’s largest seller of just about everything) and has already struck deals with Best Buy to power their Insignia TVs.

Meanwhile Apple TV continues to struggle with that $179 price tag and Chromecast, well, not being on Amazon is probably the least of their problems. The lack of any type of on-screen interface to control viewing coupled with the lack of an actual remote were, individually, deal-breakers for a lot of people. Together, they proved fairly lethal.

What You Need To Do About It

Not much to do beyond watching where the dust settles. If you’re releasing any sort of OTT app like object, make sure you do it on Roku and FireTV first, no matter how much your engineers bitch about developing for Roku.