Xandr Set to Launch Ads When Viewers Press Pause

Xandr, AT&T’s advertising company, said it is introducing its version of Pause Ads, commercial messages that appear after a viewer presses “pause” on their remote control.

The messages are animated but silent and pop up after a program has been paused for 30 seconds. The first users of the ads are AT&T Mobility, Epix and Starz.

Xandr’s Pause Ads appear on both AT&T’s DirecTV satellite service and its AT&T TV Now streaming service during live, on-demand and recorded programming.

Related: AT&T’s Xandr Acquires TV Ad Business clypd

With viewers getting more ad free streaming options, ad supported platforms are looking for ways to reduce the number of commercials they run, make commercials more relevant to viewers and find new non-interruptive types of messages.

“We want to make sure that we’re matching the great content experience with great advertising experiences,” said Matt Van Houten, Xandr’s senior VP, product development.

Xandr points to a statistic from its recent Relevance Report, which found that 73% of consumers surveyed dislike ads that interrupt what they’re doing. But Xandr said people don’t dislike ads that are relevant and don’t disrupt their entertainment.

Because Pause Ads aren’t tied to standard, 15 or 30-second pods, brands have more opportunities to reach their audiences and Xandr has more inventory to sell.

Van Houten said the ads don’t interrupt programming, because they come on after the viewers has already paused the program. The viewer will probably see the ad when they return to watch, and the program will resume immediately when the play button is pressed.

Xandr will be using its data to deliver relevant messages. Because the message is silent, it is engaging without being intrusive. Because it is animated, it gives advertisers flexibility in delivering its message.

Hulu recently announced a version of pause ads. Van Houten said Xandr’s were different because they appear on both linear and on-demand platforms and feature animated messages.

“All ships rise with the tide, so I'm a big fan of Hulu being aggressive and progressive like us in trying to create experiences that are better for the customer because at the end of the day, better for the customer means better for the brands and advertisers,” he said.

Van Houten said the pause ads will create opportunities that different advertisers will want to take advantage of.

“There’s only a finite set of activities we all do when we pause. Grandma’s calling. We want to make a ham sandwich. We’ve got to go to the bathroom. We have to take our dog for a walk,” he said. “Our goal was to create an experience when you’re watching your favorite programming and interact with one of our advanced features on the remote.”

Xander would work with brands to create unique experiences. If the viewer is going to to bathroom, a toilet paper company would want to own that moment, he said.

In other cases, an advertiser might want to sponsor all pause ads for a week, or have exclusivity in a category, like fast food, he added.

And whatever pause ad inventory isn’t sold would be valuable to DirecTV, HBO, Turner and other AT&T assets as promotion.

Xandr is looking at ways to deliver pause ads in a targeted manner, to provide third-party measurement and to transact programmatically. The company will also use its existing technology to apply frequency caps so that viewers don’t see the same message every time they hit pause.

Van Houten said Xandr would be looking at ways to share its pause ad technology to other companies. “Other CTV players in this space could license the [software]. They could leverage this capability to potentially create better more engaging more desirable experiences on their platform,” he said. 

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.