The good news: "On average, Nielsen found, DVR owners watch 40 percent of commercials that they could skip over." (IHT)
Onto the bad news. You are probably familiar with technologies that zap pop-ups and even strip banners off websites you are visiting (here's an earlier piece on GreaseMonkey, and see more links at the end). Now imagine a pop-up blocker for TV. If you think that the 30-sec skip button is evil, how about a completely automated way to skip commercials?
Here's a 2004 paper on "Automatic Detection of TV commercials" (pdf, researcher's page): "There are two main categories of methods used to detect commercials. Feature-based detection relies on general characteristics of commercials to detect their presence [things like black frames, silences, variations in sound, absence of broadcaster's logo, etc). Any of the commercial characteristics mentioned earlier could be used to indicate the (possible) presence of a commercial. Recognition-based detection attempts to identify individual commercials in the broadcast as matching commercials it has already learned."
"Comskip is a free mpeg commercial detector. It is a windows console application that reads a mpeg file and analyses the content based on a large amount of configurable parameters. After analysis it generates a file in various possible formats containing the location of the commercials inside the mpeg file." Check out the manual to see how it works.
"For those of you unaware, ever since XP Media Center 2005, there has been this fantastic application called "DVRMS Toolbox," which had a bunch of tools to analyze DVRMS files recorded by Media Center and cut/edit/compress/etc. The only feature I use but found difficult to live without is the Commercial Skip Feature. This does exactly what it suggests, it analyzes your Recorded TV shows, and automatically will skip the commercials while you're watching." (Missing Remote; another review.)
"Simply put, ShowAnalyzer is the most advanced commercial detection program available to the public... plus a little extra."
Already, there are TVs that are shipped with a DVR built in as a standard feature (like this LG plasma). How hard is it to imagine TV sets that come with a commercial filter inside, much like today's web browsers packed with pop-up zappers?
How Geeks Block Ads
Set-top Box Blocks Ads
Commentary: Philips's Ad-Skipping Blocker Good Idea
NY Times on Anti-Ad-Skipping Patent by Philips
Firefox Users Click Less, Kill Ads